I love driving but we all know that sitting for a long time is bad for our bodies. EMS providers, depending on their area, often sit in vehicles for looong hours. In my area one typical interfacility transfer can last from 6-8 hours plus. The problem is compounded when you are expected to do heavy lifting immediately after (patient, stretcher, equipment). Due to this routine over the last year and a half I have noticed negative changes in my own body; chronic back aches, shoulder tightness, hip pain, and a big fat trucker butt (and gut to match).
According to EMSWorld, “A survey of 1,300 National Association of EMT members found that 47% of respondents had sustained a back injury while performing EMS duties…A 2002 study of back injuries in British Columbia, Canada, reported that healthcare workers had the largest number of time-loss injuries in the province.”1 Many of my colleagues supplement their regular fitness plan with massages and trips to the chiropractor to combat these issues.
Recently I came up with an idea that allows me to do on-the-go war with my booty. The following exercises and stretches not only burn calories but also help lubricate joints, improve posture, keep muscles warm, prevent DVTs, keep the mind alert, and prevent injuries in general.
You can do these both as a driver and as a passenger. I don’t recommend doing them if you are involved in technical driving (inner-city, lights and sirens, etc.). My disclaimer of course is that you do these at your own risk, only as an experienced driver, and in areas with low risk of obstacles.
Yep, the yogi favorite: the controlled squeeze and release of your pelvic floor. The double bonus is that no one knows you are doing them and you will be less likely to dribble when you are older.
- Butt Squeezes
Just like it sounds: tighten up your gluteus maximus and release slowly. This one is a little harder to hide but great for freaking out your partner if you yell “Giddyup!” and then do them really fast. I never actually did that. It’s a joke. I should clarify. lol.
- Ab Crunches
Tighten up your stomach muscles by drawing your belly button towards your spine. The trick is to continue breathing without losing any of the contraction. I’m going to turn this trucker gut into trucker abs in no time.
- Foot flexion/extension
Unless you only want to do this with your left foot they are better accomplished at a scheduled stop. But if you are like me and only run into a stop sign once every few hours you may want to do them while on cruise control.
- Seated Calf Raises
Again, best completed when stopped or cruising.
- Shoulder Rolls
- Lower Back Extension/Flexion
Slowing pull your lower spine away from the seat. Alternately round it and press it back against the seat. This one looks a little like gyrating- try not to make eye contact.
- Steering Wheel Squeeze
Grip the steering wheel as hard as you can. You can sustain this pose or flex and release. This is a good forearm workout and improves grip strength (excellent for “trigger fingers”).
- Hip Rotators
If you start with your right leg you begin by pressing your knee outward toward the passenger side. You then swing your knee slowly over towards the driver door. This is a good one for preventing sciatic irritation.
10. Posture Check
Frequently check your posture. Are you slouching? Resting against the driver door? Is your weight evenly distributed on your hips? Is your spine neutrally aligned? Fix it!
I play a little game to keep things interesting. Every time I pass a sign of a certain color (green is my favorite) I change exercises (or take a rest). Although there have been no big changes on the scale (I just started this week after all), I have noticed an improvement in my mental alertness when driving. The exercises keep me engaged and I’m not as stiff and cranky after the trip.
If you are injured you can’t provide your best care.
Leave your own tips and tricks in the comments!
Take care of yourself out there.