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When it comes to exercising, we usually have good intentions. Unfortunately, long hours on the road, limited funds and demands of home and family chip away at our days, leaving little time for self-improvement.
Maybe that’s a matter of thinking too big. Sure, it would be nice to have the body of an athlete, but wouldn’t it be great to drop just a few pounds or be able to touch your toes again?
Here are ways to achieve big health benefits in only minutes a day.
Short walk to feel good
“Just 10 minutes of exercise a day can help stabilize your weight and improve your health. There’s almost no system in the body that won’t benefit from exercise,” says Toni Yancey, M.D., author of the book, Instant Recess: How to Build a Fit Nation 10 Minutes at a Time.
A five- or 10-minute morning walk can jump-start metabolism and get your body moving. “One thing anybody can do is a little bit of walking,” says Yancey. “Adding a few minutes of walking at stops or anytime drivers are out of the truck can make them more alert and more effective with driving.” Big bursts of exercise like jumping, running or dancing are even more beneficial, Yancey points out.
Inactive people who add 15 minutes of daily exercise can reduce the risk of early death by 14 percent and add three years to life expectancy. “Exercise can elevate your mood, relieve stress, create a sense of wellbeing, improve pain and make you feel better,” says Yancey.
Say so long to stress
Prolonged stress can lead to conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, digestive problems and some cancers. You’re also more likely to come down with a cold or infection when feeling stressed.
“We get stuck being angry about something in the past, or we worry about the future,” says Lisa Birnesser, a stress coach. She recommends focusing on the present. Other stress-limiting suggestions from Birnesser include:
- Listen to music.
- Practice deep breathing. Focus on the rise and fall of your belly with each breath.
- Take a mental vacation by imagining yourself someplace you find relaxing.
- Make a grateful list by thinking of four things you’re thankful for when you feel stress mounting.
Stretch it out
“You really can’t stretch enough,” says Birnesser. “Stretching can help with circulation, increase your level of alertness and decrease muscle tension.”
As we age, muscles get shorter and less flexible. Long periods of sitting cause muscle tightness and pain, making simple tasks like tying shoes or reaching over the head difficult. And sitting is not the only thing that causes loss of flexibility. Even healthy habits like exercise shortens muscles.
Stretching a few minutes before and after exercising keeps muscles long and flexible so that as you add strength, you don’t sacrifice flexibility. In addition, stretching five to 10 minutes a day early in the morning, while watching television or during rest stops can reduce injuries and prevent stiffness and tension.
Even if you’ll never again squeeze into those high school jeans, losing just 10 pounds can improve blood pressure and lower cholesterol and blood sugar. It can also make you lighter on your feet — picture a 10-pound sack of potatoes melting off your mid-section.
Packing on an additional nine pounds increases the risk of heart disease by 50 percent. “The average person gains one to two pounds a year,” says Yancey, who believes even maintaining your current weight can be a positive step. “Every step counts and every calorie burned is one that doesn’t end up on your waist.”
“The key is not in adding extra tasks,” says Birnesser, “but rather finding ways to fit positive changes into your day.”
Need help getting started? Truckload Carriers Association is hosting driver walks on Sept. 18 at TA and Petro locations.