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The following series of blogs is going to look at the health risks involved at being a driving instructor and the steps you can take to not only reverse these but swing the pendulum the other way and feel healthier than ever before.
Whilst not being a driving instructor I still spend my fair share of time behind the wheel. I used to get the back pain, I used to get the claustrophobic feeling after 14 hours in the same vehicle, I used to go into every fast food restaurant that I drove pass. It’s not sustainable for our long-term health to maintain this lifestyle.
Part One – Back Pain
The most common physical pain comes from the back. Sitting for a prolonged amount of time can either be the cause of lower back pain or aggravate an existing problem in the back. The sitting posture is static which means there is increased stress in the back which adds pressure to the back muscles and spinal discs.
There are three main causes for back pain while driving: vibrations from the engine (which can’t be changed), our sitting position, and the length of time we spend in our cars.
Studies have linked excessive sitting with being overweight and obese, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.
A reaction to sitting for a long time is a slowed down metabolism, a slower metabolism makes it harder for the body to break down fat and to regulate blood sugar and blood pressure.
The link between illness and sitting first emerged in the 50’s, researchers found that London bus conductors had half the chance of having a heart attack as their bus driver colleagues.
The 70’s dawned a burst of research on astronauts, their findings were that whilst living in zero gravity, bone and muscle loss was accelerated causing quicker ageing.
Professor Biddle says, “Sitting for an extended period of time is thought to simulate, albeit to a lesser degree, the effects of weightlessness on astronauts.” (source: NHS)
Have I scared you yet? Yes? Good
Whether you are looking for a career as a driving instructor, just starting out as a PDI or a seasoned veteran; It’s not all doom and gloom.
No matter what your occupation, regular exercise is always advised. I’m not saying you need to go to the gym twice a day 7 days a week, the NHS says to go for 150 minutes of exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic physical activity a week, more on this can be read by clicking here. You can also do a fitness self-assessment by clicking here.
There is a good guide that helps “Undo the Damage of Sitting.” Despite the article being aimed at men, the stretches can be done by women too. The whole routine can be done in just 10 minutes and involves very simple exercises, it’ll help to provide relief to your hamstrings, quads, hips, glutes, groin and lower back. Check it out here.
When in the Car
The Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust published guidance notes on driving, they recommend taking a break once an hour. This is easily achievable as an instructor and doesn’t have to be a long break. It could be simply taking a couple minutes walking around the car before a lesson. You could take a break to go through some show me tell me questions with a pupil. It could be checking the tyre pressure or tyre tread. It could be parking up and walking inside to get your morning coffee. You get the picture; these actions may seem insignificant for your body but the benefits are well documented.
Another tip they give is to move around, they stress that it shouldn’t be drastic adjustments to your seat position, but to just adjust the height or back position a notch can help vary the pressure going down the spine, they recommend doing this every 30 minutes.
The full document can be read here.
Let’s Draw This to a Close
Alright, so I’m not saying we’re all going to get sick and get diabetes and overweight. The point of this blog is to highlight the stress we put on our bodies when in the same position for extended periods of time. We can all do more to improve our health. I’d be surprised to meet a professional in the driving trade that will claim to never have experienced back pain. Take a peek at the recommendations in the articles, some simple stretches could transform your comfort during your working day, give it a go, the worst that can happen is you feel a little more limber! Next up in this series we’re going to take a look at how McDonalds could be ruining your business.