Too much sitting is linked to heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and premature death, according to a report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. That means sitting for hours at a time—such as behind the wheel of your car—can actually be hazardous to your health.
But even if you spend much of your day driving, you can fight these negative health results by being aware and making conscious healthy choices. If you spend much of your day sitting in your vehicle, try these five tips to preserving—or improving—your health.
Exercise at least 15 minutes every day. No matter what your day holds, you can always make time for exercise. Spend at least 15 minutes—more if possible—in strenuous activity. That could include weight training, aerobic exercise, or a combination. Try to use as many different muscle groups as possible in your daily training. And push hard—you can do almost anything for just 15 minutes.
Always eat breakfast. It’s so easy to skip breakfast or grab a fat-filled doughnut or biscuit on the way out the door or in a drive-through. But eating a healthy breakfast every day may actually counteract some of the health risks associated with too much sitting. For instance, skipping breakfast has been associated with a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes. Instead, start your days with a healthy meal including protein, whole grains, fruits or vegetables. It can be as simple as an egg, whole grain toast and a handful of berries.
Squeeze in short walks whenever you can. Anytime you have down time—such as while you’re waiting for your next rider—take a brisk walk around the area. You don’t have to go far from your car; just walk up and down the sidewalk if you have to. But interspersing walking with your sitting can have powerful health effects: Walking burns about three times the calories of sitting or standing, according to a new study. Walking, even at a gentle, strolling pace, can help you avoid back and shoulder pain from too much sitting and better control your blood sugar.
Keep healthy snacks handy. When you’re in your vehicle most of the day, it’s tempting to stop for lunch at a fast food drive-through or run into a convenience store for a bag of potato chips, candy bar or other unhealthy snacks. To avoid binging on junk food (and to save money), pack your car with a cooler or caddy of healthy snacks to munch on when you need fuel. Consider bananas, peanut butter and crackers, nuts and seeds, dried fruit, carrot or celery sticks, Greek yogurt or turkey jerky.
Keep track of your nutrition and fitness. If staying healthy is a priority for you, it has to be intentional. Keep a journal of your health habits—how much time you spend walking and exercising each day, and all the foods you eat each day. Or consider wearing a fitness tracker, which will help you keep up with the number of steps you’re taking and your activity levels each day. If you’re keeping track, you’re much more likely to increase your movement, helping to counteract the health risks associated with a seated job.