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Exercise for Safety Behind the Wheel

Simple exercises contribute to a more positive driving experience and help you stay safe on the road

Exercise is a key component of healthy aging. It offers many health benefits to your overall fitness and well-being. Simple exercises may also contribute to a more positive driving experience and help you stay safe on the road. The Hartford Center for Mature Market ExcellenceSM and the MIT AgeLab researched the connection between physical exercise and driving and found some fascinating results.

See also: How does your hearing impact your driving?

Exercise class, mature adults, Driving Resource Center

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Exercising may improve the types of driving-related movements that many people find challenging.

Research Findings

Drivers in the study who were asked to exercise daily:

  • Reported greater ease in turning their heads to see blind spots when changing lanes or to back up.
  • Were able to rotate their bodies farther to scan the driving environment while making right-hand turns.
  • Were able to get into their cars more rapidly, demonstrating increased overall flexibility.

The research also surveyed drivers 50-plus and found that half have not considered how exercise might be beneficial to their ability to drive. Those surveyed also identified the physical aspects they find most challenging when it comes to driving. They are:

  • Turning their head and body to look behind when backing up (41 percent).
  • Getting in and out of the car (22 percent).
  • Turning their head to see blind spots when changing lanes (19 percent).

Exercising daily not only contributes to a more positive driving experience overall, but also may improve the types of driving-related movements that many people find challenging.

The Exercises

The participants in our study participated in an exercise program that focused on four areas — flexibility, range of motion, strength and coordination.

  • Strength Exercises: Strength is important for many driving tasks, such as pressing down on a brake pedal. Exercises like biceps curls and squats can help enhance a driver’s strength.
  • Range of Motion Exercises: Range of motion is central to actions such as putting on your seatbelt easily. Performing exercises such as back stretches and heel drops can improve your range of motion.
  • Flexibility Exercises: Flexibility is necessary for movements such as getting in and out of your car easily. To enhance your flexibility, consider exercises such as chest and shoulder expansions and shoulder stretches.
  • Coordination Exercises: Coordination can help with the integration of movement in your upper and lower body, such as simultaneously braking and turning. Soccer kicks and lateral steps are good exercises for boosting your coordination.

Exercises like these are easy to learn, can be done anywhere and can be combined with your current exercise program. To learn more, download a copy of our exercise guide.

Two-Step Plan

To add or begin an exercise program to boost your driving wellness:

  1. Check with your health provider on the best exercise plan for you. Review our exercise guide and come up with your own plan.
  2. Follow a regular exercise program. Connect with friends, build it into your calendar and try to spend at least 15 to 30 minutes a day being active.

About the Research

The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence and MIT AgeLab tracked experienced drivers ages 60 to 74 as they followed a physical fitness program for 15 to 20 minutes per day over eight to 10 weeks. The exercise program focused on four areas: flexibility, range of motion, strength and coordination. Participants’ driving skills were assessed before and after the exercise program with a combination of in-lab tests, a driving simulator and the instrumented MIT AgeLab Aware Car. The research also surveyed drivers age 50-plus about exercise and driving as well as the most challenging aspects of driving.

Walking

When it comes to fitness and increasing endurance, walking every day is one of the easiest and most enjoyable forms of exercise. Try to take a brisk walk for 30 minutes every day. All you need is a good pair of shoes, comfortable clothes and a safe place to walk. Check out local facilities such as malls, recreation centers or community centers to explore available options. It is a great way to spend time with friends and family.

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