Staying fit when you work a lot is already a huge challenge for most people.
For truck drivers who spend their days seated in one position for hours and hours at a time and end the day with just enough time to eat, sleep, and do it all over again…
… it can seem almost impossible.
But plenty of veteran truckers have figured out the tips and tricks to combat the health challenges their job presents.
I’m not a trucker, but I spent hours browsing and chatting with folks from The Truckers Report and other online discussions forums, and I used what I learned to create this guide to how to stay fit as a truck driver.
To stay fit as a truck driver, you need to make a conscious effort to carve out time to move or exercise every day (even just 30 minutes), avoid massive calorie bombs like fast food and junk snacks, and ideally keep a few space-saving pieces of exercise equipment in the cab with you.
Let’s get into more detail and hear all the best fitness and healthy eating tips from veteran truckers!
1. Make fitness and nutrition a priority (Find time every single day)
Trucking can be an incredibly unhealthy lifestyle if you let it. It’s the definition of sedentary, and being on the road encourages you to eat garbage convenience foods most of the time.
In my research, I came across a ton of truck drivers who admitted they gained 50, 100, or more pounds over the course of their first few years trucking.
Truckers who stay fit all say it — make health and fitness a priority before things get too bad.
Even just a half hour per day of walking or doing simple bodyweight exercises, and making a few good food choices per day, can completely change your outlook.
Veteran tip: Try starting each day with 30 minutes of exercise; even just a brisk walk.
After that, you’ve already won and won’t need to stress about making time for it later on when your schedule becomes more unpredictable.
2. Bring a bike along for frequent rides
If walking isn’t your thing, try biking!
It’s a lot more fun, low impact, and is great at burning calories and building tendon and joint strength in your knees.
Bikes will also give you access to nicer areas of town other than the truck stop; you could bike to a nearby trail or park, for example, and enjoy a brisk ride to work up a sweat.
Career truckers prefer folding models under 35 pounds so they can stow easily in the cab.
(You can also hang a bike off of a load bar on the back of the truck, but it’ll get dirty and rusty fast out there in the elements.)
This top-rated folding bike from Schwinn (Amazon link) stores incredibly easily and can handle riders up to about 240 pounds or so.
3. The best exercise equipment for truckers to bring OTR
Unfortunately, it’s probably not practical to bring a treadmill or an exercise bike on your next road trip.
But there are plenty of compact, space-saving exercises accessories you can store pretty easily in the cabin; more than enough to get an awesome workout!
If you’re serious about making time (30 minutes a day or one hour a few times per week), consider bringing along:
A yoga mat – Any basic yoga or exercise mat will do. Lay it out in the cab, if you have space, or out in the grass so you can do push ups, crunches, planks, and more.
Adjustable dumbbells – You can get an incredible full-body workout with just a pair of dumbbells (and very little space to move around). Bicep curls, shoulder press, skullcrushers, goblet squats, and more are all on the table.
I love the affordable and easy-to-use Bowflex 552 adjustable dumbbells (Amazon link), and I saw them mentions by more than a few truckers online as a great option.
Resistance bands – For lower intensity workouts, a set of resistance bands can do wonders. They’re cheap, take up almost no room, and can help you work every muscle in your body, inside or outside the truck.
You can use different strength bands for more of a challenge, or modify your grip on the same bands for more resistance.
Kettlebells – Kettlebells offer an awesomely efficient way to workout your whole body. Their unique design allows you to do a wider range of multi-joint, athletic training movements.
Kettlebell swings are a favorite amongst truckers. This one simple movement works your back, shoulders, quads, and glutes.
(Read about my favorite kettlebells and kettlebell sets for beginners here.)
Jump rope – Jumping rope requires a certain amount of athleticism and coordination to get started, so if you’re starting from scratch, you might be better off with some long walks to trim your weight at first.
But when you’re ready, a jump rope takes up zero room in your truck and can scorch calories at an extremely efficient rate.
Gloves – You likely don’t need any specialized workout or weightlifting gloves, though they can help, but you’ll want something to cover your hands if you choose to do push ups or other bodyweight exercises outside of the cab.
I don’t need to tell you truckers why you don’t want you hands coming into contact with the pavement!
4. Go running & walking regularly
Forget about fancy equipment and workouts for a second.
One of the tips I heard repeatedly from truckers was to find time to walk (or run, if you’re up for it) several times per week.
Just getting up and moving your legs can help combat the effects of sitting all day, promote blood flow and circulation, and burn enough calories to keep you trim and fit.
Again, start your day with a short 30 minute walk in the morning before you get on the road.
It might not be safe to run or walk once you’ve stopped for the night.
5. Get a national gym membership
A few truckers have found success with national gym memberships like the Planet Fitness Black Card.
These memberships allow you to workout at any location around the country.
In the case of Planet Fitness, there’s one on almost every corner in America, so you can usually find one no matter where you are!
The downside here is that it can be a little tricky to actually get to the gym, even if you make the time.
You might need to invest in an Uber or cab ride to a nearby gym location, or use your bike to travel there quickly
(Related: Is Planet Fitness worth it?)
6. Make healthier food choices
No matter how fast you drive, you’ll never be able to outrun an unhealthy truckers diet!
If you want to lose weight as a trucker or get in better shape, you’ll have to start dialing back on awful road meals like fast food, junk snacks, and gas station dishes.
Yes, it can be difficult to find and access healthier foods on the road, so here are some tips from the pros to get you started:
- Eat less: Greasy foods, fried foods, sugary foods (candy, desserts), sodas, creamy coffees
- Eat more: Lean protein (baked or grilled chicken, turkey, fish), fruits, vegetables, and water
- Packaged oatmeal and fruit is a good wholesome breakfast you can eat on the go
- Grocery stores and Walmarts are your friend (access to fruits, vegetables, pre-cooked rotisserie chickens for lean protein, healthy prepackaged snacks like nuts and seeds, etc.)
- Gas stations and truck stops, for the most part, are your enemy when it comes to nutrition!
- Try skipping breakfast using intermittent fasting – you’ll burn fat and lower your overall calorie intake by pushing your meals later into the day
Veteran tip: Invest in a small fridge or electric cooler to keep in the cab with you (depending on what you buy, you might need some electrical accessories like a power inverter to make it run).
That way, you can buy or bring more healthy foods along with you from real grocery stores rather than relying on truck stop fare.
This electric Igloo cooler on Amazon has rave reviews from truckers and should be big enough to hold a gallon or two of milk, some bottled water, and a few healthy snacks.
7. Learn bodyweight fitness
Walking, biking, running, and eating right will take you a long way.
It’ll help you shed unwanted pounds and keep them off, if you’re able to stick with it.
But what if you have bigger goals? What if you want to build muscle and get strong and toned as a truck driver?
Working with dumbbells and kettlebells is one option, but you should also seriously consider putting some time into mastering bodyweight fitness.
Bodyweight fitness is any strength-based movement that uses only your body like:
- Push ups
- Pull ups
- Bodyweight rows
- Head and handstands
These movements are easy to learn and progress on at first, and then you can move into more challenging variations as you get stronger and stronger.
(You can do a lot of this in the cab, or out in the grass using a yoga mat.)
Over and over again, truckers are recommending the Convict Conditioning program for learning bodyweight fitness and getting jacked on the road.
Veteran tip: Load up a long 1×12 wooden plank on your next job. If it’s too cold to go outside, you can lay the board on your bed for better stability for pushups.
This will be a lifesaver for winter workouts!
8. The best exercises for truck drivers while driving
No matter how you slice it, you’ll still spend most of your time behind the wheel as a truck driver.
What can you do to stay fit while you’re actually driving?
There are a few exercises you can try. However, BE SAFE and always stay focused on the road.
- Hand stretches – Move your wrists and hands as often as you’re able. Rotate your wrists to keep the blood flowing. You can also squeeze a tennis ball with one hand to promote grip and forearm strength.
- Pelvic tilt – While sitting, keep your back straight and firm. Arch your back slightly, pushing your belly button forward. Now relax, and push your belly button back toward the seat back. Repeat this to improve posture and spinal positioning.
- Stomach vacuums – Take a deep breath, hold it, and suck your tummy in — belly button toward your spine. Hold this position and squeeze your abdominal muscles to build strength in your core.
- Shoulders shrugs & rolls – Loosen up your shoulders by shrugging them up, holding, then releasing. Also try rolling your shoulders in a circle from back to front.
- Neck rolls – Gently roll your neck in a circular motion, 360 degree. This will stretch and alleviate tension in those muscles while promoting bloodflow.
No one said staying in great shape as a truck driver would be easy.
But plenty of folks before you have figured out how to optimize their schedule and make small choices every day that lead to better health and fitness.
If you’re just getting started, make a simple change like ditching sugary drinks and walking for just 15 minutes per day. That’s all it takes to get started!
As you’re able to bring your body fat down and increase your fitness, you can invest in bigger challenges like bringing weights with you on long hauls, buying a bike, or even joining a national gym chain.
If you’re a trucker, what’s your best tip for staying in shape OTR?
Hope this helps, everyone!