Road Rules: 10 Exercises Designed for Long Trips

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Forty-two hours—that is the amount of time the average commuter spent in the car, according to research completed by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Whether it's a long commute or a cross-country road trip, there is no need to let the highway hours get in the way of your workouts. While time in the car can make a workout more of a challenge, it is still possible to get moving with a little creativity. Exercises can safely be squeezed in at traffic lights, rest stops or even while filling up the tank at a gas station. 

In addition to burning bonus calories, it’s a good idea to get up and move every few hours for the sake of good health. When legs remain still for too long, the calf muscles don't contract. Those calf contractions help blood circulate and, without them, blood clots can form in your legs. These 10 exercises will keep the blood flowing so you can stay consistent with your routine and stay healthy, no matter the amount of time you spend on four wheels.

In the Car: 
  1. Abdominal Contractions Draw your belly button in toward your spine as you contract and hold your abdominals tight while you continue breathing. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds, release, then repeat another one to two times.
  2. Seated Knee Lifts This one works best for the passenger in the vehicle. Sit toward the front of your seat with your back straight.  Keeping your legs at a 90 degree angle, pull the knees up toward your chest while the core stays tight. Lower legs to complete one rep, but don’t let the feet touch the floor until you complete one set of eight to 12 repetitions. Aim for two to three sets of this exercise.
  3. Calf and Toe Raises Raise your heels as high as possible, putting your weight in the balls of your feet while contracting your calves, then rock back on your heels to stretch the shins. Repeat eight to 12 times to complete one set. Work towards completing three sets total.
At the Gas Station or Restaurant 
  1. Lunges Before you go in to eat or while the gas tank is filling, do a few sets of forward lunges work your quads, hamstrings and glutes. Try eight to 12 on one leg, then switch to the other side to complete one set. Work up to two to three sets as you become stronger. 
  2. Squat Hold Lower your body down like you’re about to sit in a chair, keeping your weight in the heels. It is important that you keep your knees from coming out over the toes and be careful not bend the knees more than 90 degrees. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds, stand up to release, then repeat another one to two times.
  3. Jumping Jacks Remember doing these when you were a kid? Jumping jacks are great for getting your heart pumping in a short amount of time. Increase the speed to increase the intensity. Try moving for 30 to 60 seconds and slowly increase the time as you become more fit.
At a Rest Stop 
  1. Jump Rope If you’re looking for a challenge to quickly increase your heart rate, this is it. Keep a jump rope in the car so that you’re never without this option out on the road. Start with 30 to 60 seconds, slowly building up as you become more fit.  
  2. Pushups Pushups work several upper-body muscles all at once. Start with modified pushups on your knees, if needed, then slowing increase the repetitions as you get stronger.     
  3. Triceps Dips A sturdy bench or picnic table is all you need to work the back of the arms with triceps dips. Do one to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions per set and your arms will quickly feel the burn.  
  4. Marching with High Knees Lift your knees higher and march faster to make this exercise more of a challenge. If space is available, consider marching around the parking lot or a nearby grassy area to get your heart rate up. Start with a few minutes and build up from there. 
Hours on the road don't have to get in the way of an effective workout routine. Making the most of the few minutes you have available here and there will make the trip more interesting, give you a boost of energy and help you feel better as you do some good for your body. Safe travels!