Whether you're stuck in traffic on a long commute or waiting for your kids to get out of school, time spent in the car doesn't have to be time wasted. Of course you should keep your attention focused on the road while driving -- but while safely parked, sitting at a stoplight or stuck in gridlock, you can take advantage of being auto-bound by doing a quick, never-leave-your-seat workout.
Gridlocked traffic would make anybody slump, but you can use these simple exercises to fight back against the poor posture caused by long car trips. Sit up tall, imagining that a string is pulling you up through the car roof. Bring your shoulders back and tuck your chin back so your ears are in line with your shoulders. For extra challenge, squeeze your abs to draw your belly button as close as possible to your spine, then hold this for 15 to 30 seconds. Work up to 10 repetitions.
In an isometric exercise, your muscles contract but your joints don't move. Isometric exercises can increase your blood pressure, so those with cardiac concerns should not do them without a doctor's guidance; but for healthy individuals, light isometric exercises done in the car can offer cardiac benefits and some muscular strengthening. Place your hands on either side of the steering wheel and press in to work your chest; pull back on the steering wheel to activate your back, shoulders and arms; or place your hands on the steering wheel and push, careful to maintain good posture, to work your triceps and chest. Hold each position and pressure for 10 to 12 seconds, breathing normally.
Although sitting in a car doesn't allow much range of motion, you can sneak in some upper-body workouts using a short elastic resistance band or an elastic resistance loop -- it's the perfect length for working in that limited space. These are best done while fully parked. Lean your seat back, loop the elastic band around the base of the headrest, then hold each end of the band as you crunch forward against its resistance; or loop the band around the back of the seat and press both arms forward to work your chest. You can also loop the band around one foot and straighten your leg against its resistance to work your thighs and glutes, or point your toes to work your calves; or hold your feet stationary and bend your arms, palms facing up, to do biceps curls. Aim for eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise.
If you spend a lot of time waiting for your kids to come out of school or for someone else to join you, make the most of it by keeping a mini exercise bike inside your car. These tiny gadgets are pedals only, situated on a very small base, and if you scoot your seat back the smaller models will fit in the footwell of some cars. Pedaling the mini exercise bike until the person you're waiting for arrives is a great way to bust stress and get some cardio in, too.
- The Washington Post: Drive Yourself to Fitness
- YouTube: How to Exercise in the Car - Isometric Exercises You Can Do in the Car by Wendie Pett
- The Ochsner Journal: Exercise and the Heart: Risks, Benefits, and Recommendations for Providing Exercise Prescriptions
- American Council on Exercise: Strength Training 101