Loughborough University: New research suggests health education, Fitbits, and cabin workouts can improve activity levels of lorry drivers

A targeted health programme, including health education sessions, Fitbits, and lorry cabin workouts, can improve the activity levels of long-distance heavy goods drivers in the short term – according to new research led by Loughborough University.

Study lead Dr Stacy Clemes hopes the results of the ‘Structured Health Intervention For Truckers’ (SHIFT) randomised controlled trial, published today in BMC Medicine, will “lead to a policy-level change in driver training provision, and, in turn, lead to longer-term improvements in drivers’ health and road safety”.

There are approximately 300,000 heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers in the UK, but recently the industry has faced challenges with driver shortages and attracting new drivers. It is well established that HGV drivers are exposed to a number of health-related risk factors, such as shift work and long periods of sedentary behaviour (sitting), which contribute towards chronic conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

Dr Clemes, in collaboration with colleagues from Loughborough University, the Diabetes Research Centre, University of Leicester, and University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, investigated whether HGV driver health could be improved using the specially designed SHIFT health programme by recruiting and working with 382 long-distance HGV drivers from 25 transport sites in the Midlands, UK.

From January 2018, drivers were either assigned to a six-month SHIFT programme (183 participants) or to a ‘control arm’ (199 participants) – which meant drivers received no intervention, therefore any changes as a result of the programme could be observed.

Participants in the SHIFT arm of the trial received a six-hour education and health-behaviour change session, had access to a health coach for support, and were provided with a Fitbit to monitor activity levels and set goals. They were also introduced to a workout that they could follow in their lorry cabin and provided with resistance bands and balls. Participants were encouraged to maintain the health programme for six months.

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