Tell HGV drivers they lead a sedentary lifestyle and they won’t be amused – driving is tiring work. From the medical point of view, though, long hours sitting in a cab pose many of the same risks as sedentary office-based roles, as some additional risks too.
Old fashioned advice, such as to go jogging at weekends and to eat well, are not only difficult to keep up in today’s world, but some of the supposed benefits have actually been discredited. Jogging could put a strain on your heart, and the definition of what is or isn’t healthy eating changes every few months.
When it comes to sound health advice, HGV drivers are left wondering where to turn.
Help is available, in the form of new devices and phone apps designed to keep us better in touch with the state of our health and to help us improve it.
Worn as bracelets, clips, smart-watches, pocket devices or even headbands, these now range from one purpose devices up to elaborate models almost as good as the tricorder used by Star Trek’s Doctor McCoy. The ‘Scanadu’ and the Viacom Check me have both used that very comparison in their marketing. The Scanadu is a small handheld device that only needs holding to a forehead for a couple of seconds to determine heart rate, temperature, blood pressure, oxygen level and even an ECG – all sent to your smartphone by Bluetooth.
Other devices focus more on keeping fit, rather than providing diagnostics. By monitoring your daily activity levels, they set goals aimed to maintain your fitness, even while you’re in the cab.
Some of the brand names of these devices are already familiar to professional drivers and include TomTom and Garmin. Others include Samsung Gear, the Microsoft band, the Apple Watch, Jawbone and FitBit.
Stress can cause heart disease, obesity, diabetes, asthma, gastrointestinal problems, headaches, and anxiety. It impairs focus, sleep and positivity of mind, so the Muse headband is a meditation assistant designed to reduce those stress levels, as is the PIP stress manager biosensor.
Many devices and phone apps aim at improving sleep – a common problem for long distance HGV drivers. One is the Android Sleep App, which pairs with a sleep tracker device to wake you at the best time, so you’ll be rested but not groggy.
The Withings Blood Pressure Monitor measures heart rate, blood pressure and even the number of steps you take each week and sends a report to your mobile phone. Similar devices are used by the NHS.
The Fitness app is intended for those who aren’t able to get to the gym, and it gets you a 5-10 minute lunch break workout. Freeletics is similar but programmed with hundreds of workout regimens, and it focuses on weight control.
If you can get to a gym, Gymwatch Fitness Tracker provides coaching and tries to motivate you. For runners, the Couch to 5k app works you up to being able to run 5000 metres in just 2 months.
Then try a shoot-‘em-up computer game. Passionate involvement in some games is as good as a workout. Just don’t get stressed!