“Health is a matter of life and death. More people need to realize it,” says Andrea Morley. The same applies to truckers. (Photo: Peter Power)
If you’ve ever sat behind the wheel on the road all day, whether in a big rig or a car, you know how drained and lethargic you can feel. Andrea Morley’s mission is to help truckers conquer the energy drain by making healthy lifestyle choices along the way.
She is the lead nutritionist and health coach with Healthy Trucker, an organization dedicated to providing health and fitness advice to truckers. Fleets and individuals sign up for coaching that teaches about nutrition, exercise and healthy habits.
Truckers expose themselves to huge health risks if they follow an unhealthy regimen of driving all day and then eating truck stop food before watching TV and falling asleep.
“The biggest risk, of course, is going to be an untimely death as a result of things like heart attacks and other health issues,” Morley says. “But then other risks include compromised safety on the road. That’s mainly due to decreased reaction times, fatigue, falling asleep at the wheel, or just not being as focused as they should be. Then there are even distractions related to mental health.”
She notes that certain health problems, like insulin-controlled diabetes – which is closely linked to obesity and inactivity – can mean the loss of driving privileges, while long-term inactivity can result in poor balance that may end up in a lost time injury from a slip and fall.
“Health is a matter of life and death. More people need to realize it,” Morley says. “A lot of drivers think, ‘You know what? I don’t need to worry about my health. I’ve been eating the same way that I have for the last 50 years, why do I need to change now?’ But that’s just because those health issues haven’t caught up with them yet and they don’t realize the severity of what is to come.”
But truck drivers are gradually coming around. Morley says people in general are more focused on their health than ever before, and it’s reflected in the trucking industry. “There are many drivers that have been taking care of their health for years and years. We’re simply trying to help more drivers do the same. And as we’re spreading more awareness, it’s a slow but steady improvement.”
Morley counsels drivers to just start moving. A quick walk, some bicep curls, or even jumping jacks are all it takes to get started. “Whatever it may be that helps you to get the blood pumping to increase circulation and to get some more oxygen in” will make you feel better, she says. After doing this just a couple times a week, drivers start to feel better and have more energy, which motivates them to keep going.
She stresses that although there are guidelines about the amount of exercise people should get, it doesn’t need to be prescribed. “It just means getting active for a few hours each week. It really depends on the type of exercise, on the person’s goals, and their current fitness level.”
The other piece of the equation is food. Morley suggests drivers take small steps like starting to prepare their own meals. Sometimes this means making food at home and keeping it in the fridge or a cooler on the road, but since this isn’t always possible she also teaches drivers to look for the healthy options at truck stops – like fresh fruits and vegetables or nuts – and to ask for plain veggies or salads that might not be on the menu.
It doesn’t take long for drivers to see results. Morley notes that your body responds to healthy food immediately, so if you eat properly you’ll be a healthier version of yourself the next day. “They can start getting results within a week, and then a month down the road they’re really going to notice how much better they feel. A year from now, their life can be completely transformed if they make the commitment today to make those changes,” she notes.
To make the commitment easier, Healthy Trucker sets up challenges like counting steps, or weight loss that stretches over a month or two. Morley says the real focus is to challenge people to set and meet their own health goals, whatever they may be. It holds them accountable, educates, and provides tools and resources to meet the goals.
She estimates that since the program began, Healthy Trucker has helped thousands of drivers adopt a healthier lifestyle. “It has challenges and it’s not easy to get anyone to change their lifestyle,” she says. “But it’s a lot more simple and attainable than the media and the [health] industry make it seem.”