You are an experienced and conscientious driver. You know the rules of the road and do your best to make sure you and your loved ones get where they need to go safely. But what if there was something you could do in less than 5 minutes a day that could make you an even better and safer driver for years to come? It can be normal to feel some pain while driving, and sometimes this can limit your mobility behind the wheel.
Driving is one of the most complex mentally, physically and emotionally challenging activities most of us do on a regular basis. Have you ever stopped to consider all the different coordinated movements that safe driving requires? For safe turns and exits your neck must be able to comfortably swivel from left to right. Sudden stops require core stabilization to protect your spine. Safe reversing asks you to stabilize and twist while also rotating your neck and holding onto the steering wheel. If you have noticed the movements required for safe driving have become more difficult as you’ve gotten older, age related declines in mobility and strength may be at least partly to blame. The body naturally loses strength, mobility and agility as we age. Often these changes are so gradual that we don’t notice them until a near accident or other scare brings them to our attention. If you feel pain while driving that impacts your ability to do any of these things, our routine can help.
We have created a short workout specially designed to help you regain and improve all of the motions most needed for safe driving. All of the exercises are done from a seated position and the entire sequence can be done in 5 minutes or less. There is a detailed description of each one exercise as well as video demonstrating proper form. For best results use a firm and sturdy chair such as a metal folding chair. Do this routine 2-3 times per week and you will begin to notice improvements—such as a greater ability to rotate your head to notice potential hazards—that will directly translate to better and safer driving. Try doing this routine before you drive to increase your range of motion and body awareness before you get behind the wheel. If you are not currently doing any form of exercise it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting a new routine.
Happy, healthy and fit driving!
- All exercises are done seated in a firm, supportive chair (such as a folding chair).
- Do 5-10 repetitions of each exercise aiming for a moderate challenge, but not excessive fatigue.
- Stop immediately if you feel pain, dizzy, nauseous or excessively tired.
Neck flexibility and strength
Do neck rotations to increase mobility and ability to see potential hazards.
Side-to-side neck movement
In a gentle rhythmic motion move right ear toward right shoulder and then left ear toward left shoulder. To increase stretch, reach the opposite hand toward floor. Do 5-10 repetitions on each side and finish with a 10-15 second stretch hold on each side.
In a gentle rhythmic motion rotate chin toward right shoulder and then left shoulder, looking as far as comfortably possible in each direction. Do 5-10 repetitions on each side. Finish with a 10-15 stretch hold on each side. Keeping your neck flexible can result in less neck pain while driving.
Roll both shoulders back and down, allowing chest to rise with each rotation. Keep neck relaxed throughout the movement. Do 5-10 rotations.
Trunk flexibility and strength
Do abdominal marches to strengthen core muscles to protect your spine and improve your posture.
Place your left hand on the back of your head with your elbow bent. Sit up tall and bend to the right side, reaching your right hand down toward the floor (like you are trying to pick something up). Switch hands and bend to the left side. Do 5-10 repetitions on each side.
Lean forward as far as comfortable, bringing your chest down toward thighs (with hands on knees if needed for support). Then use the strength of your torso/core to sit up as straight and tall as possible, bringing abdominal muscles toward your spine to encourage activation. Finish with an optional shoulder roll. Extend your arms in front of your body to add challenge. Repeat 5-10 times.
While engaging abdominal muscles, lift one foot and then the other a few inches off floor in an alternating marching motion. Place your hand on your stomach to help feel your abdominals activate. Keep posture upright throughout. Hold on to chair sides for added stability. Hold onto imaginary steering wheel for greater challenge. Do 5-10 reps of each foot. Building up your core can directly result in less back pain while driving.
Raise arms in front of body with elbows slightly bent at a 90 degree angle. Squeeze your elbows back and together to active shoulder blades/upper back muscles together. Repeat 5-10 times.
Lower body strength and mobility
Do swivel squats to get stronger and more stable when entering and exiting your vehicle
Rotate your feet a quarter turn to the left (as if you were getting out of the driver’s seat of a car). With both feet planted firmly on the floor, rise from the chair to a standing position. To complete the repetition carefully sit back down and return feet to the starting position. Use the support of a chair or walker as needed. Repeat 5 -10 times.
Fitness Model is Suzanne Even. She is a certified yoga instructor and holistic health coach practicing in Reno, Nevada.