Long road trips and traffic jams can leave you stressed, stiff and sore. They can also impact your long-term health. Even when space is tight, there are things you can do to keep your blood pumping and prevent your muscles from wasting away. Put together a mini fitness routine that you can perform while seated and that requires no equipment. If you're behind the wheel, your top priority is safety, so don't exercise when the car is in motion.
Running on Fumes
Sitting glued to your seat for hours at a time can be a bust for circulation. Get your heart working and your blood flowing with a car-friendly cardio exercise that doesn't need loads of space. If you're a passenger, fold your arms across your chest and do a set of alternating high-knee lifts. If you're in the driver's seat and the steering wheel limits your range of movement, keep your knees low and do fast-paced football runs instead. Before you begin, straighten your spine and engage your abdominal muscles to protect your lower back from strain.
Use your travel time to boost muscular strength. You're working in close quarters, so stick with isometric exercises, which involve minimal movement. Work your pecs and arms by gripping the steering wheel firmly with both hands and squeezing your upper arms toward each other for a count of five. Challenge your gluteal muscles by tensing your buttocks -- one at a time or simultaneously -- for five to 10 seconds. Or, contract your abdominal muscles, pulling your belly button toward your spine. Breathe evenly and hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds.
Circling the Wagons
Use basic mobility exercises to reduce pain and numbness, preserve flexibility and lower your risk of blood clotting. Working one foot at a time, slowly circle the foot 10 times clockwise and 10 times counterclockwise. Repeat with the other foot and with each hand. Drop your chin toward your chest and slowly circle your head from side to side. Or, make big sweeping circles -- 10 times forward and 10 times backward -- with your shoulders.
A Tight Ship
You don't need oodles of space and a yoga mat to stretch out kinky muscles. Loosen your back by slowly twisting your torso from side to side. If your hands and feet feel stiff, try fanning your fingers and toes. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and look toward the roof of the vehicle to expand cramped chest and rib muscles. Loosen your triceps by pulling your upper arm across your chest. If your rear end feels sore or numb, stretch your glutes by crossing one foot over the opposite thigh and bending forward slightly from your hips. When you stop to fill up on gas, do standing calf, quad, hamstring and hip flexor stretches, keeping one hand on the car for support.
- MayoClinic.org: What Are the Risks of Sitting Too Much?
- American Council on Exercise: 5-5-5 Chair Workout
- The Active Times: Work Out on the Go
- Highland Hospital: Nine Exercises for Knees
- Pop Sugar: Travel Tips -- 3 Car Exercises For Road Tripping
- National Strength and Conditioning Association: The Often Forgotten Exercises -- Isometric Training
- Photo Credit PIKSEL/iStock/Getty Images
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