These safe and straightforward techniques promote good health and help counteract the aches and pains that sometimes develop when you’re behind the wheel.
Neck and shoulder stiffness. Back pain. Headache-inducing eye strain.
If you drive professionally, you’re probably familiar with at least one of these unpleasant conditions.
You might have even developed swollen legs or deep vein thrombosis as a result of sitting down for long periods of time.
But you shouldn’t resign yourself to ongoing discomfort, no matter how often you drive.
There is a range of simple exercises that drivers can use to alleviate these complaints and even prevent them from occurring in the first place.
Each of the following five exercises targets a different area. Select the exercises that correspond with your particular issues – or practise all five for full-body benefits.
To prevent eye strain and refresh your mind
When we drive, we often keep our eyes locked in one position for long periods of time. This, combined with the need to remain visually alert, can contribute to eye strain, which, in turn, can cause headaches. Eye rolls can help: a single set involves blinking slowly four times while looking upwards, then looking right, then down, then left, then up again, blinking slowly four times in each position.
To reduce swelling in the lower legs and feet
A slow-down in blood circulation while driving can lead to swollen legs and feet, which is not only uncomfortable but also potentially dangerous. You can reduce the swelling and prevent it from recurring with ankle rolls: with one arm on your vehicle to steady yourself, lift one leg off the ground and rotate your ankle slowly eight times in one direction, then eight times in the other direction. Repeat with the other foot.
To reduce back pain and relax the torso
Ergonomics can greatly reduce the severity of back pain but sitting correctly doesn’t always fix everything. To soothe an aching back and alleviate stiffness in the torso, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, lift both arms above your head and slowly bend backwards until you can feel your back and shoulder muscles stretching. Return to upright, then slowly lean forward, allowing your arms to hang limp, until you feel your spine elongate.
To loosen the neck and upper back
Tightness in the neck is a quadruple threat: as well as being unpleasant in its own right, it can lead to headaches, shoulder pain and back aches. To begin, try a neck roll: allow your head to gently fall forwards, then slowly roll your head clockwise eight times, then anti-clockwise eight times. You should now be ready for the neck rotation exercise: reach behind your head for the opposite ear, then gently turn your head towards the shoulder you’re reaching with, before repeating with your other ear.
To maintain flexibility and boost energy levels
It’s easy to forget about lower body stretches during a pit stop, but reduced flexibility in the upper legs can slow your reaction time in an emergency situation and can also contribute to the lower leg and feet problems mentioned above. Counteract it with a hamstring square: using your vehicle for support, bend forward at the waist so the two halves of your body form a right angle and hold that position. Then stretch your quads by slowly raising one leg behind you and reaching backwards to grab it with your corresponding hand. Repeat with the other leg.