Sitting is the new smoking – how does this information impact truckers?

Sitting has made the headlines lately, coined as the “new smoking” for its supposed public health risks. From the breakfast seat, to the driver’s seat, to the lunch seat, to work, to a dinner seat, and finally the couch at the end of a long day, Americans are spending more time sitting than ever before. Matter of fact, The Los Angeles Times recently interviewed Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative. For years, Dr. Levine has focused his studies on the negative effects of our gradually more sedentary lives and has summarized his findings in two simple sentences – “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.”

Over the past decade and a half sitting has also been connected with cancerheart disease, diabetes and even depression. This has led to an outpour of media stories discussing the risks of sitting, even for people who exercise on a daily basis. Now, not to take away the importance of desk jobs, but there are jobs that require far more sitting than a regular 9 to 5 job. Let’s focus for a minute on commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers, also referred to as truck drivers.

Commercial truck drivers can drive up to 70 hours within any period of eight consecutive days or 11 cumulative hours driving in a 14 hour period (following a rest period of no less than 10 consecutive hours). Confused? It all comes down to driving 11 hours, a very long day sitting behind the wheel of a big-rig.  Imagine sitting for eleven consecutive hours and how detrimental that is for your health.

As if CMV drivers weren’t already exposed to enough detrimental health conditions – not only do they have to worry about the atmosphere they work in, infused with diesel fumes and hazardous chemicals (hello chronic lung disease) and obesity and stress – leading to high blood pressure and diabetes – which they try to forget by lighting a cigarette to help relieve stress (which can cause cancer and serious lung issues, again), now they also have to add sitting to their list of worrisome conditions, all while they are crammed into a poorly designed truck cab offering an unpleasant back and neck injury.

So what does it all boil down to? In my opinion, you are no healthier by standing in front of a standing desk or going to the gym. The main factor to a better health at your sedentary job is constant movement throughout the day. And a trucker already has that – whether it be at a rest stop, parking the truck further from the service station to grab a cup of coffee, loading and unloading the truck. Finding ways to staying active and taking a small break every hour will help reduce inactivity and in turn reduce certain health risks.  

These habits can all be difficult to control and truckers may be tempted to drive more to reach their destination faster, but in the face of serious health problems, finding the willpower to change is important. Taking an occasional break and staying active is the key.  Using all the resources available can help you change and early detection can put you on the path of a healthier lifestyle.

Photo by ThomasKohler