You might think that driving a car doesn’t require much physical activity. After all, you’re sitting down! But drivers need to be in good physical shape to remain alert and safe behind the wheel.
The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence and the MIT AgeLab performed research on the effects of exercise on mature drivers age 50 and older. The study found that exercises in strength, flexibility, range of motion, and coordination were especially helpful in providing a safe and pleasant experience for drivers.
Senior Driver Fitness
From strength training to flexibility, here are the exercises seniors can do to stay safer while driver.
Muscle strength is especially important for mature drivers. Bicep curls are great for increasing upper arm strength, while squats are good for building lower body strength.
- Bicep curls. Elastic resistance bands are a safe and effective way to perform upper body exercises. Bicep curls can be performed from a standing or seated position:
- Standing – Place bands under one foot and plant feet firmly on ground. Keep your elbows straight and tucked in at your waist, with palms facing forward. Take a deep breath. As you bend your elbows, exhale, raising your hands upward.
- Sitting – Sit up straight in a chair and place the band under both feet, which are planted firmly on the ground. Perform the same exercise as above, remembering to exhale as you curl your hands upward.
- Squats. This exercise is a good one for toning and strengthening the lower body. Stand with feet firmly planted on the ground, hip distance apart. Direct your toes forward. Bend gently at the knees and push hips back, like you are sitting on an imaginary chair. Take a breath as you perform the squat, then exhale on the way back up.
Range of motion exercises
For older adults, these exercises can make it easier to sit for longer periods of time in the driver’s seat. They also allow a person to react more quickly and avoid traffic accidents.
- Back stretch. Sit up tall in a chair. Cross your left leg over your right at the knee or ankle (whichever is more comfortable). Squeeze your abdominal muscles and turn gently to the left to feel a nice stretch in the upper body. Hold the stretch for a few seconds. Then return to a neutral position. Repeat. Then switch legs and sides to stretch the other side.
- Heel drops. Strong ankles can be safer on at the gas and brake pedals. Stay seated in the chair and take turns pointing and flexing your toes and ankles. To perform the exercise correctly, think of the motion your feet make as you drive.
Senior-friendly flexibility exercises
Overall flexibility also helps keep drivers safe behind the wheel. These exercises can help a senior driver stay limber:
- Chest and shoulder expansion. Sit in a chair. Lean forward and push arms backwards to hold on to the back of the chair as you lean further with your chest toward your knees. Your elbows should be straight as you lift your chest and inhale. Lean forward again to feel a stretch in your shoulders and exhale. Repeat several times.
- Shoulder stretch. You can perform this move in a chair or standing. Cross your right arm over your chest and put your left hand gently on your elbow to hold it in place. You’ll feel a nice stretch in the shoulder; hold it for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat. Then switch to the other arm.
Maintaining coordination helps with many tasks of safe driving. Key among them is reaction time. Mastering one or both of this will help.
- Soccer kicks. While it sounds a little tricky, you don’t need to be an athlete to perform this exercise! Simply kick your legs out low across your body, keeping your knees bent slightly. As you kick to the right, move your arms to the left, then kick left and move your arms right. Aim for 4 sets of 8 kicks on each side.
- Lateral steps. Stand up but keep your knees slightly bent. Step sideways to the left and right. You can step farther out for a greater stretch in your inner thighs. Aim for 4 sets of 8 steps on each side.
These exercises don’t take up much time and can easily be fit into a daily routine. As is true of any new form of exercise, be sure to check with your primary care physician before getting started.
At Five Star Senior Living communities, residents benefit from our holistic approach to wellness. We call it Lifestyle360. Learn more by scheduling a visit with the community nearest you today!