Stuck in a traffic jam? Don’t waste time staring into space, honking at other cars or mulling over yesterday’s work presentation. Instead, add a healthy twist to your work commute with some easy-to-do, in-car exercises.
Ram Peruvemba, Senior Physiotherapist at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), observes: “In cities like Singapore, driving during peak hours can take longer than expected. If you’re stuck in a traffic jam on an expressway, you could actually use the time to do a mini-workout in the car.”
It’s all beneficial: When you twist and turn, pull and stretch, you get to reduce joint stiffness, burn calories and release tension. Mr Peruvemba adds: “Regular movement helps with joint lubrication and blood circulation.”
In fact, in-car exercises can be particularly useful for those who suffer from common spinal conditions such as neck pain or low back pain.
“Besides, prolonged sitting can aggravate back pain, while the sustained holding of the steering wheel and focusing on the road on long journeys can exacerbate neck pain,” says Mr Peruvemba.
Give these in-car exercises a try:
- Turn the neck to one side, hold for five seconds. Repeat five times. Repeat on the other side.
- Sit straight, look forward and tilt your head to one side (ear to shoulder). You should feel the stretch on the side of the neck. Hold for five seconds. Repeat five times on both sides.
- Sit forward slightly and tilt your head backwards (towards the roof of the car). Hold for five seconds. Repeat five times.
- Sit upright and look down all the way (chin to chest) until you feel the stretch on the back of your head and your neck region. Hold for five seconds. Repeat five times.
- Sitting straight, rotate your trunk to one side. Hold for five seconds. Repeat on the other side.
- From a normal sitting position in the car, slowly roll your bottom (forward) away from the seat so as to form an arch in the small of your back. Hold for five seconds and slowly roll your back flat against the seat. Repeat this process a few times. This helps to mobilise your back, especially if you are unable to sit for long periods due to backache or stiffness.
- Sit as straight as possible with your back slightly arched. On an exhale, tighten your abs slightly (towards your spine) while keeping your back straight. Keep the abs engaged and focus on breathing normally while holding the tension in the abdominal muscles. Hold for five seconds. Repeat five times.
- Squeeze your gluteal (bottom) muscles to activate the circulation and relieve both numbness and low back pain. Simply squeeze your bottom for five seconds and release slowly. Repeat five times.
- Put your hands at the nine and three o’clock position on the steering wheel, keeping your elbows relatively straight. Push and hold for five counts. Repeat four times. Work different muscle groups by repeating the exercise with your hands at the 10 and two o’clock position.
- Start with your hands at the nine and three o’clock position on the steering wheel. Perform push-ups by moving your chest and head together as you bend your elbows. Squeeze your shoulder blades at the end as you reach near the steering wheel. Release your back slowly and repeat five times. This helps to release any tension in the shoulder blade and arm regions.
These in-car exercises are easy and safe for most people. It is normal to feel the muscles stretching while doing these exercises, but do stop if you experience any pain.
“If you have pre-existing neck, back or spinal problems, or if you are in doubt about whether you can perform certain exercises, do ask a professional. Besides a doctor, you can also check with a physiotherapist,” says Mr Peruvemba.
Of course, you should never, ever do the exercises while driving. Mr Peruvemba explains: “In a car, safety is paramount. Even if you are doing the exercises in a traffic jam, you should apply the parking brakes. It’s even better if you can turn the engine off.”
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