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Stuck in Traffic? Exercise More than Your Middle Finger

By Sara Butler

Couple Sitting in Traffic

There you are, sitting in your car and going absolutely nowhere. Why? What is happening up there? Why are the cars in the other lane moving but you’re not? Why is traffic always so frustrating???

OK, I’m going to stop you right there because this line of thinking isn’t good for you. Stress and inactivity will, quite literally, kill you. So, let’s slow your roll a bit. How can you turn those stressful moments stuck in traffic into something more productive? You can exercise!

Yes, exercise (and I mean exercise something more than your middle finger). These moments stuck in traffic can actually be used for something other than mumbling obscenities to the car in front of you; instead, this time can be put to better use by doing these easy, in-car exercises!

Exercise in the Car – Really?

I see that skeptical look on your face – or I can imagine it, anyway. But hear me out! The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the average American spends 26 minutes getting to work in normal traffic. To put that in perspective, if you add all Americans’ commuting time up from one year it would equal 1.2 billion days. That’s a collective time of 3.4 million years spent in traffic. Every year, just sitting in a car or waiting for a bus.

That’s just a waste of potential.

You know what isn’t a waste? Using some of that time to improve your health, stretch your muscles, reduce joint pain and stiffness, and reduce muscle tension – and you can do all that by trying your hand (or glutes, or abs) at these car exercises.

Exercise for the Neck

Your neck makes the world go ‘round – literally! So, help it out by trying these exercises in the car:

  • Side to side – This is an easy exercise to do because all you have to do is turn your head to one side, hold for five seconds, turn it the other way, and repeat.
  • Head tilt – Sit up straight while looking out in front of you, then slowly tilt your head to the side as you lower your ear to your shoulder. Hold for five seconds, then repeat on the other side.
  • Chin to chest – For this one, sit up straight and look down. Slowly move your chin to your chest until you feel a stretch in the back of your neck and head. Hold for five, and then repeat.

These exercises can be done as needed, but five reps on each side should be enough to help you feel better.

Some Trunk Exercises

This is an exercise for your abdomen, not an exercise to be done in the trunk of your car – just so we’re clear. To do this easy exercise, you should:

  • Sit up straight
  • Rotate the trunk of your body to one side
  • Hold for five seconds
  • Repeat the other way
  • Do this at least five times on each side

Care for Your Back

The back takes a lot of punishment in the car, so help it out by doing a few of these exercises:

  • The arch – For this exercise, simply sit up straight then lean forward as you curl your bottom forward until the small of your back is forming an arch. Hold for five seconds, then slowly roll back to normal, repeating two to five times.
  • The rocker – To help take off some of the pressure sitting for long periods puts on your butt, try shifting your body weight from one side to the other, lifting one side of your butt off the seat and then the other, holding for five seconds. Repeat up to five times on each side.

Spread Your Wings

Your arms can take a bit of a beating as you clutch that steering wheel, so give them a break:

  • Lean forward in the seat
  • Place both hands behind your back
  • Pull your shoulders back, feeling as if you’re bringing your shoulder blades together
  • Hold for five seconds
  • Repeat two to five times, or as much as you need

Don’t Forget Safety

In-car exercises are safe for most commuters – with a couple of caveats! You should never stretch anything to the point where you feel any pain or you could hurt yourself. Also, if you have any pre-existing conditions of the neck, back or spine, you may want to discuss in-car exercises with a chiropractor first to make sure you’re good to go.

Also, remember that safety should always come first! These exercises are only going to work if you don’t do them while driving a moving vehicle. If you’re stuck in standstill traffic, put the car in park or turn it off before you try any of these.

At The Joint Chiropractic, we care about your health and your sanity, and we know traffic can take its toll on both. So, next time you’re stuck in traffic on your way to work, or home from work, try some of these exercises to help you feel better and focus on something other than the annoying driver in front of you.

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