The professional driving business has been booming across the Pacific Northwest. For passengers, this is a guaranteed convenience, as companies such as Lyft and Uber have a constant presence on the roads.
For drivers, however, this means many hours spent sitting in seats that are not exactly ergonomic, and options for staying limber while in the car are painfully limited, in more ways than one. Nevertheless, there are a handful of exercises drivers can do to protect problem areas such as the neck and back.
- Shoulder rolls – Smoothly shrug your shoulders in a circular motion from front to back. Avoid tightening your neck as much as possible. After six to eight repetitions, change directions.
- Neck rolls – Relax your shoulders and lean your head to either side. Hold the stretch for a couple slowly breaths without tensing your shoulders. Roll your chin to your chest as your switch sides. Avoid rolling your neck back, as this can actually cause your neck and shoulders to tighten.
- Upper-body twists – Sit upright and turn your body carefully in either direction until you feel the stretch in your back and/or abdominal muscles. If you need help turning further, you may use the door arm rest or the seat next to you, but always keep at least one hand on the steering wheel at all times and never take your eyes off the road. You may feel your back pop during this exercise.
- Bonus: Neck rotations – Caution: do NOT perform this stretch while the vehicle is in motion or if the vehicle is about to be in motion. While the above stretches were more preventative, this is an excellent stretch for people who have suffered whiplash. Keep both hands in place on your steering wheel and sit up tall and relaxed. Gently turn your head to the right until you feel the stretch down the left side of your neck. Hold the stretch there for 3-5 seconds, and then slowly switch sides. Repeat each side 10 times.
While in-between passengers, it is crucial for drivers to exit the vehicle when possible and actively move about. Many drivers perform a few static stretches and then return to driving, but this is not enough. Elastic exercises like the three listed below are key to preventing aches and pains.
- Knee raises – Hold your hands at approximately waist-level. Raise one knee at a time to meet the corresponding hand, and repeat approximately twenty times with each leg. This can be done at a gentle walking pace or quickly like you’re running place.
- Jumping jacks – Begin with your feet together and your arms at your sides. Jump your feet to approximately one leg’s length apart, and simultaneously raise your arms either above your head or to shoulder-level. Jump your feet back together and bring your arms back down to your sides. Repeat enough times to feel loose but not so many times that you begin to feel tired or out of breath.
- Pot stirs – Stand with your feet approximately one leg’s length apart and bend forward from your waist. Rest your left arm against your left thigh and let your right arm hang straight towards the ground. Rotate your right arm clockwise for eight repetitions and then switch directions. After eight counter-clockwise rotations, rest your right arm against your right thigh and begin rotations with your left arm.