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May 24, 2012

Independent Driving: Stay Physically Fit to Stay Behind the Wheel

If you want to hang onto your car keys, keep your body physically fit. In a recent study of drivers ages 70-plus, researchers at Yale School of Medicine found that drivers who engaged in mild strength and flexibility exercises on a regular basis were able to noticeably improve their driving performance. Keeping the muscles used for driving strong and limber made it easier for older drivers to maneuver the vehicle, improved response time, and increased driving safety. Even small amounts of regular exercise resulted in measurable improvements.

The following exercises were found to have a positive impact on driving ability. As with any new fitness routine, always check with your physician before beginning new exercises.

  • Keeping your neck flexible allows you to twist it to check for blind spots when backing or passing. Turn your head slowly to the left as far as it will go and hold for 10 seconds. Turn to the right and hold for 10 seconds. Do 3 repetitions.
  • To maintain hand strength for gripping and adjusting controls, squeeze a tennis ball slowly as hard as you can. Repeat 5 times; then switch hands. Do 3 repetitions.
  • Doing arm curls will help you build arm strength that will make it easier to maintain control of the steering wheel and maneuver quickly when necessary. Holding your arm straight out in front of you, palm up, make a fist, tighten your muscles and pull your fist toward your body, bending at the elbow. Repeat 10 times before switching arms.
  • Build leg strength and overall stamina by taking a brisk 20- to 30-minute walk every day.

For other tips for staying independent, download 11 Ways to Age Successfully at Home.

Photo: Igh75


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