‘A giant shift in attitudes to get drivers off their backsides and in better health’

‘A giant shift in attitudes to get drivers off their backsides and in better health’

Sitting down for too long is bad for your health, so I worry about bus and taxi drivers. Years ago, tests done on bus drivers and bus conductors concluded the conductors were far healthier due to being on their feet collecting fares.

So spare a thought for long-distance lorry drivers. Loughborough University has come up with a bespoke health programme for them, including health education sessions, Fitbits, and lorry cabin workouts, to boost their activity levels and health.

Study lead Dr Stacy Clemes hopes the results of the Structured Health Intervention For Truckers (SHIFT) trial will also boost road safety because a fit driver is potentially more alert.

There are approximately 300,000 heavy goods vehicle drivers in the UK, and it’s well known that they’re exposed to a number of health risks, such as shift work and long periods of sitting, which can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Dr Clemes, in collaboration with colleagues from Loughborough and Leicester University, investigated whether the health of 382 long-distance HGV drivers from 25 ­transport sites in the Midlands could be improved using the specially designed SHIFT health programme.

From January 2018, 183 drivers were assigned to a six-month SHIFT programme and 199 to a control group where drivers got no intervention.

The SHIFT drivers received a six-hour education and health-behaviour change session, had access to a health coach for support, and were provided with a Fitbit to monitor activity levels and set goals.

They were also given a workout they could follow in their lorry cabin with resistance bands and balls. The programme lasted six months with follow-ups at 16 and 18 months.

After six months, participants in the SHIFT programme walked on average an additional 1,000 steps per day than the control group (equivalent to approximately 10 minutes of brisk walking) and spent
less time (around 24 minutes less) sitting per day, and accumulated six more minutes a day of moderate to vigorous activities.

The authors concluded that SHIFT should be incorporated into HGV driver training to promote activity and help improve the health of this key workforce.

Professor Thomas Yates from the University of Leicester said: “Even small changes in walking, as little as five minutes a day, have a meaningful impact on the risk of developing a long-term chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes.

“The changes observed in this study were hugely important and likely to meaningfully improve the longer-term health of the lorry drivers involved.”