The School Run Work Out – leading physiotherapist has top tips on how to survive the daily commute
The daily school run and ferrying children to and from extra-curricular activities after school and at weekends can mean hours spent in the car. Not only can it play havoc on your back, neck and overall health it can also be extremely stressful and impact your emotional as well as physical well being.
It is not uncommon to experience a range of musculoskeletal problems from spending too much time in the drivers’ seat, that over time can build up into serious health issues.
Steven Berkman of Boost Physio has some tips on how to stay pain free in the car and how to prevent little niggles escalating into bigger problems.
“When we are stuck in a car for a long time, negotiating traffic, worried about getting the kids to school on time, the stress can build up and it can have a negative impact on our bodies. The back and neck pain we experience when driving is often caused because tension is making us clench muscles in our necks and jaws. Often, many of us are not sitting correctly in the car seat, putting unnecessary additional pressure on our bodies. There are lots of things we can do to relieve the physical and mental stress of the dreaded school run”, says Steven.
“Small, smart daily exercises can help keep you out of pain and relaxed. The school run workout is easy and will keep your stress levels down and combat the physical stress on your back and neck caused by siting too long with your muscles tensed up”, he continues.
Traffic Jam Neck Roll
Sitting in traffic is stressful, the clock is ticking and the atmosphere in the car can get very tense. Try these quick exercises to relieve tension, if the children are in the car, teach them how to do these exercises too and you can make a game of it.
Safety first: Put the handbrake on and keep an eye on the traffic ahead.
Shrug your shoulders up and down and roll them forward and back to relieve tension
Slowly tilt towards your right ear to your right shoulder, hold 5-10sec. Repeat to the left.
Place your chin towards your chest and hold 5-10sec.
Look straight ahead and turn your head to the right, hold 5sec and repeat to the left.
Stationary leg stretch
Stuck at long traffic lights put the handbrake on, take your feet off the pedals and put your feet flat on the floor. Lift up onto your toes in a pumping up and down motion to work your calf muscles and give your circulation a boost.
Upper Arms and Chest Stretch
Interlock fingers and turn palms outwards, straightening your elbow and stretch up towards the ceiling of the car, hold 5-10 sec.
Good driving position
It’s worth taking some time to make sure you are sitting properly. Our seat position and the actual seat might be wrong, putting strain on our backs and the sheer amount of time sitting is not good for us
Getting your set position right is key. Small adjustments in height, distance from steering wheel, height of steering wheel and angle of the head rest can make a huge difference. A good driving position will reduce stress and make the journey more comfortable.
Knees – both knees should be slightly bent and the left knee should still be bent when depressing the clutch
Back and shoulders should rest firmly against the seat. Adjust the angle of the back rest so it provides continuous support along the length of the back to shoulder height and avoid reclining the seat too far back.
Elbows should be bent at 30 to 40 degrees
Head position should be about 2.5 to 3cm away from the restraint
Make sure your head restraint is correctly positioned, it is there to protect you in case of an accident but positioned incorrectly it can increase the damage caused by a whiplash. If you do suffer from a whiplash, see a physiotherapist as soon as possible as this is an injury that can get worse if not treated.
Take a break between trips
If you can, don’t just drop the kids off and dash off, leave home five to ten minutes earlier. Park a little bit away from the school and walk the rest of the way and once the children are safely deposited at school go for a 20-minute walk before you get back in the car and get on with your day. Of course, this is not always possible, but ideally, if you can find some time before you get back on the road and back into the school run traffic it can make a difference to your mental and physical health. If you haven’t got time for a walk get out the car anyway and do some stretches and if you can’t leave the car turn off the engine and do the in-car exercises.