exercise while driving

Active on the road: Exercises during long commutes

Now that COVID-19 restrictions have settled, many of us are commuting to work again. Australians commute for roughly 4.5 hours a week, which is more than 1 hour a day on average, getting to and from work. Current evidence suggests that long periods of sitting is linked to greater risks of obesity, cardiovascular disease, poor sleep quality, poor mental health, and increased risk of road incidents, particularly for commuters who drive.

While it can be difficult to exercise due to lack of time, following these tips and tricks by Accredited Exercise Physiologist Lucija Peric will keep active on the road!

Seek opportunities to be active

Doing any physical activity is better than none, especially if you are someone who commutes to or from work for long periods of time. Here are some tips to be active:

1. Break up long periods of sitting as often as you can, at least every 2 hours. This can include going for a walk, standing up or stretching.

2. Park further away from your usual spot or use the stairs instead of lifts to get some extra steps in for the day.

3. Take a lunch break outside instead of sitting in the car/truck/bus or office chair. You can do some outdoor exercises such as: push ups from a bench, car or ground, body weight squats, jogging on the spot, lunges and walking.

4. Use active transport where possible during your commute.

5. Make use of what you have available: Do some squats, calf raises or bench push ups whilst heating up food for lunch or waiting for your coffee. You can even squeeze in some squats or high knees whilst you brush your teeth in the morning.

Exercises whilst on the road

Whilst these exercises won’t increase your heart rate, they can provide relief and break up inactivity whilst driving.

*Note: If you have an opportunity to stop such as at a red light or going to a petrol station on the way, take some time to do one of the exercises below.

1. Ankle Circles
Start with 1 foot and make circles with your ankle in a clockwise direction 10 times, and 10 times in an anti-clockwise direction. Repeat on the other side.

2. Calf Raises
Seated: Lift your heel up on your left side and hold for 3 seconds, then gently lower your heel down. Do as many as you can comfortably. Repeat on the other side.

Standing: Find a space where you can reach out and balance if it is needed. With feet shoulder width apart, stand up as high as you can on your toes, and gently lower yourself down.

3. Knee Lifts
Imagine knee lifts as marching on the spot. This can be done seated or standing and the aim is to bring one knee up as high as you can, and then bring it down before you move onto the next leg (aim for 10 on each side). If you are standing or have a lunch break, feel free to add some intensity and do some high knees on the spot (about 20 or more if you would like to get your heart rate up)

4. Pelvic Tilts
Start with your feet shoulder width apart in a seated position. Imagine that your hips are a bucket of water. Take a deep breath in, and then exhale as you attempt to empty the bucket from behind (tucking your tail bone under). After this, inhale once again and ‘tip the bucket’ forwards. Repeat up to 10 times.

5. Shoulder Rolls
Roll shoulders forwards for 5 and backwards for 5. Repeat 2-3 times or when shoulders are feeling stiff.

6. Head Turns and Neck Stretches
Before you drive or once you have stopped, take some time to focus on some neck exercises to relieve muscle tension. Take your time with these exercises and hold positions for 2-3 seconds.
a. Look to your right, come back to the middle and then look to your left.
b. Bring your right ear to your right shoulder (not right shoulder to right ear), come back to the middle, and then repeat on the other side.
c. Bring your chin up to the sky, back to the centre and then lower your chin towards your chest. Then come back to the centre.

The road towards being active

Accredited Exercise Professionals can help you during your journey towards becoming more active day to day. They can provide guidance for injury management, along with individualised interventions for injury and chronic disease prevention. If you’d like to get some professional advice, click here to find one near you! 


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Written by Lucija Peric. Lucija is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist at With Pride Integrated Health Care and is interested in chronic pain, mental health, neurology and health promotion.