The more advancements that we make with medical research and the more we learn about our bodies and how specific behaviours can affect them, the clearer it becomes just how dangerous a lot of what we do in our daily lives actually is.
You wouldn’t really think of sitting down being a dangerous thing, would you? You’re relaxing, you’re not putting your body under any kind of strain and you’re not opening yourself to injury by moving around.
In the moment it is a pretty safe thing to do, but problems start to arise when you are spending long, interrupted periods of time without standing up. And that’s a very common practice because so many of us have office jobs.
Even if you are exercising for 30 minutes per day, sitting for hours and hours on end can still open you up to things like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. And of course, these are all often fatal, especially as you get older.
With the amount of time that people spend sitting down these days, it’s almost on par with smoking in how detrimental it can be to your health. So that leads us to the question of whether or not driving is considered sedentary.
It’s an important thing to consider, because driving is a job for some people. And because it’s an activity that does feel somewhat active, there are some who believe that it’s not as detrimental to your health as sitting at a desk might be.
Is that true? Well let’s consider a few things:
How Much Exercise is Necessary
The first thing to note here is that not everyone who works a desk job and not everyone who drives for a living is at risk. It is possible to get the right amount of exercise in spite of a very sedentary job.
Getting up every 30-40 minutes and moving around for 5-8 minutes can offset the hours spent sitting. You can also do some regular leg and arm stretches in your chair and of course, do some kind of longer form exercise outside of working hours too.
150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week should be enough to keep your blood flowing and your muscles working at a healthy rate. You don’t have to be a super athlete to achieve that, nor do you have to be overworking your body.
If you go for a brisk 30 minute walk 5 days a week, then you’ve hit that target. And then combine that with regularly getting up and getting mobile for short bursts every half hour and you should be able to keep yourself healthy.
Does Driving Count?
The simple answer is no. No matter how much you feel like you’re doing something active, when you’re driving you are sitting down, and the same problems from sitting at a desk will afflict you when sitting behind the wheel.
You’re not burning any fat, you’re producing more insulin than necessary and the antioxidants in your body aren’t getting boosted by movement. There isn’t any difference really aside from a very mild increase in how much you’re using your arms and legs.
In the case of professional drivers, this presents a pretty big problem. Think about truck drivers for example. They are constantly on the road, which means that they are rarely going to have easy access to a gym.
While they do move a bit when they reach their destination and may have to carry boxes and stuff, they need to spend hours and hours driving to get there first. Stopping for a walk isn’t quite so simple in the haulage business.
In the case of bus drivers, studies suggest that they spend 12 hours per day sitting, which is even more than a typical office worker. It would seem that they are even inactive outside of working hours.
This might be due to the fact that they are less motivated to move when they are so restricted from it. In theory a truck driver can stop for a break whenever they want, but a bus driver is responsible for hundreds of people all expecting to arrive somewhere on time.
If you have been thinking of driving as exercise, and as such, have been dismissing the idea of doing exercise due to driving in a professional capacity, then you have to reconsider, and find ways to ensure that you get the right amount of regular exercise in.
Driving as an Older Person
There is one other aspect of this worth mentioning though, and that’s to do with older people and their relationship with driving. The older you get, the more difficult it is for you to remain mobile.
It’s still important for you to do as much as much as you can, for as long as you can, but you are limited by wear and tear on your muscles and bones and by the lack of energy that comes with advanced age.
And while driving still isn’t exercise, it can be beneficial for older people to drive because it encourages movement. Deciding to leave driving behind when you reach a certain age means accepting that you are going to be primarily housebound.
Which can decrease one’s motivation to keep active, because if they’re not going anywhere, they may feel like they don’t need much mobility anymore. Ideally, older people should be encouraged to walk, cycle or swim too, but it’s still worth driving so that they can feel like they have the independence to move around.
Provided of course that they can get medically cleared. And it’s important that senior citizens are properly insured too. It can be tough to get fair car insurance for an older person but there are a few ways to save on it if you do effective research.
While driving is a fun activity for a lot of people and for others it feels like something that’s very active and energetic, it’s not something that can really be counted as exercise when trying to avoid leading a sedentary lifestyle.
If you are someone who sits regularly, or who drives regularly, make sure you find the time to get some movement in. It will benefit you greatly in the long-term.