(BPT) - Whether you’re traveling for business or for pleasure, if you spend your career on the road or even just take an occasional road trip, it may seem tough to maintain a healthy lifestyle while you’re on the go. The sedentary hours spent behind the wheel, combined with the seemingly limited healthy food options along the highway, can take a toll — especially on your heart.
In honor of American Heart Month in February, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) has a few simple tips to encourage healthy habits while on the road.
1. Take breaks. Too much time behind the wheel can make you stiff and sore, causing stress and fatigue. Make sure to know your own limits, both in terms of physical endurance and mental focus and attention. Breathe deeply, in and out, several times during your breaks — this gets more oxygen to your brain when you need it, helping you to stay alert and awake.
2. Get some exercise. During your breaks, park further from the rest stop to add extra steps, or take a brisk walk around the area to get your blood flowing. Stretch your arms and legs, bend your knees, gently roll your neck and move all parts of your body to work out the kinks. If you are fit enough, try this challenge: 20 air squats, 10 push-ups, 10 lunges.
3. Rest. Get at least seven hours of sleep a night while you’re traveling, both for your own health and for safety. Tim McGee, Lead Driver for Pilot Flying J tanker fleet out of Knoxville, recommends that if you’re feeling fatigued, “Find a safe place to park and rest, nap no longer than 20-30 minutes, walk around.” When you wake up from a nap, move around, get some fresh air and drink plenty of water to be sure you’re fully awake and refreshed before hitting the road again.
4. Eat real meals. Stop for complete, well-rounded meals when you can, to help resist the urge to snack on less healthful choices. No matter which meal you’re stopping for, include protein choices like roasted chicken, yogurt or hard-boiled eggs, vegetables like salads, steamed broccoli or green beans, and fresh fruit such as grapes or bananas. All of these choices are available at Pilot Flying J, the largest operator of travel centers in North America. The PJ Fresh Marketplace, available at many locations nationwide, offers a fast-casual restaurant where you can sit and eat a fresh, healthy meal or get a combo meal to go. As one of the largest franchisees of Subway, Pilot Flying J also offers great sandwich choices. Choose options with lean meats like turkey or chicken, pile on the veggies and go easy on the dressing for the healthiest approach.
5. Snack smart. When you need a quick pick-me-up between meals, you can find plenty of healthy fruits, veggies, nuts, yogurt and protein bars on the road. According to the ATA, the banana has become one of the most popular picks for on-the-go snacking — it comes in its own package, and it’s full of nutrients. ATA America’s Road Team Captain Rhonda Hartman says, “Snack on fruits and vegetables instead of high-calorie and high-salt snacks. It will keep your blood sugar levels even, so you don’t get the energy spikes and drops.” Stay hydrated with water, limiting your intake of sugary sodas and not overdoing the caffeinated beverages, which can make you feel jittery and keep you from resting well at night.
These tips will not only make you healthier when you get to your destination, but keep the journey safe and more enjoyable as well. With a little planning ahead, and choosing the best options for where to rest and eat, your trips will fly by.
For those interested in going the extra mile, check out the Life is Why We Give(TM) campaign, where supporters like Pilot Flying J raise funds to support the American Heart Association’s mission to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.