Being on the road driving can hit your health hard. Sitting in one place for hours can impact your circulatory system and hurt your legs and back, making you feel less like exercising when you do get a break. Long distance driving also requires you to be focused for long hours, which may lead drivers to choose sugary snacks or caffeinated beverages. Accessible places to stop and grab a bite to eat don’t have a large variety of healthy foods, so your diet can take a hit as well.
While it’s hard to make healthy choices on the road, it’s imperative for your health, so you can pass your DOT physical exam and continue driving. Here are the top tips for maintaining your health and being ready for your DOT physical:
Find a Certified Doctor
While this may seem obvious if you have had a DOT physical before, only a DOT-certified examiner can perform your physical to get your certificate. If your primary care doctor isn’t certified, you will need to find one who is. Here is an excellent place to start.
Evaluate Your Lifestyle
If you aren’t already doing this, avoid foods high in sodium, sugars or fake sugars, and trans and saturated fats. If that’s a lot to remember, know that processed foods are high in calories and typically hit a few of these ingredients to avoid.
Your diet should be balanced with meats or beans for protein and five servings of fruits or vegetables daily. You don’t have to cut out your favorite snacks entirely, but eating these treats in moderation will help keep your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol within healthy ranges, preventing cardiovascular problems that will keep you from passing.
Exercise will also go a long way to counteract sitting in the driver’s seat and poor dietary choices. Aim to get 30 minutes daily, alternating between strengthening and cardiovascular exercises. If you think it’s impossible to accomplish this without fancy equipment, walking at a brisk pace to increase your heart rate provides suitable cardio. You can break it up, getting in a few laps of the parking lot at each stop you make. You can do bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, lunges, and squats for strength.
At the very least, avoid eating a large meal before your exam. It will increase the sugar in your urine, a warning sign for diabetes, which could trigger the need for additional testing before getting your certificate.
Decrease Caffeine Consumption
Consuming beverages containing caffeine, such as coffee, sodas, and energy drinks, will impact your health over time. One coffee in the morning isn’t too detrimental, but drinking an energy drink or Big Gulp before your exam will skyrocket your blood pressure. Try to abstain from caffeine 24 to 48 hours before your appointment, especially if you already have higher blood pressure or get anxious at the doctor’s office.
Reduce Using Tobacco Products
Again, tobacco is a stimulant, so it’s a popular choice when you’re spending hours on the road. It has more significant long-term risks for cardiovascular diseases and cancer, impacting your future DOT physicals. But in the short term, it can elevate your blood pressure readings if you use it before your exam. Reduce or cut it out completely at least 12 to 24 hours before your appointment.
You will be required to provide a urine sample as part of your physical exam. Ensure you’re prepared by drinking plenty of water before and bringing a water bottle to your exam. Making sure you are hydrated also ensures your kidneys are functioning at their best, so your results will be optimum.
Know Your Health History
Stay aware of any borderline or new health conditions you may have so that you can take extra precautions before your appointment. You will want to have your medical records and doctors’ contact details for the examiner as well as any particular documents or test results related to your specific health conditions. Sleep apnea, diabetes, and heart disease are a few that require additional disclosures.
Be sure to bring a printout of all your medications, dosages, and reasons for taking them. Make sure you are taking them as directed. If you require hearing aids, glasses, or contacts while driving, you must also bring these to your exam.
Don’t Stress It
Any time your job depends on an exam, it can be stressful. Short-term stress about your appointment can throw off the results of your physical. Do your best to create a low-stress environment while you get ready for your physical. Allow plenty of time to get to your appointment and try to remain calm at the office. Long-term stress can negatively impact your blood pressure, weight, heart, and lifestyle. Look for ways to reduce your daily stress to keep you in top driving shape.
Ensure you get enough restorative sleep, which can impact your stress and health. Get a good night’s sleep before your exam so you’re clear-headed and well-rested for your appointment. Your DOT physical is not a barrier to overcome. It is a way to determine you are physically able to operate your vehicle safely. If you do not pass, your health condition may entitle you to get a health waiver. You may be able to make modifications to improve your condition, such as getting a CPAP machine for sleep apnea or lowering your blood pressure through diet and exercise. The FMCSA always allows you to get a second opinion as well. Take care of yourself, remain calm, and you’ll have your DOT medical certificate in no time.