Exercise has positive effect on drivers

Research by The Hartford and the MIT AgeLab shows positive effects of exercise on mature drivers.

Exercise delivers many health benefits – did you know it can also improve driving skills? The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence and the MIT AgeLab’s Exercise for Mature Drivers research results show that exercise enhances flexibility and range of motion for mature drivers.

“Our research focused on the potential impact physical exercise might have on driving skills as you age,” said Jodi Olshevski, gerontologist and executive director of The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence. “Driving can be essential to a sense of independence and autonomy, so we encourage older drivers to consider exercise as one way to stay safe on the road over a lifetime.”

Drivers in the study who were asked to exercise daily for eight to ten weeks:

  • Reported greater ease in turning their heads to see blind spots when changing lanes or to back up
  • Were able to rotate their bodies further to scan the driving environment while making right hand turns
  • Were able to get into their cars more rapidly, demonstrating increased overall flexibility

“We were interested in looking at connections to specific driving issues associated with aging,” said Joseph F. Coughlin, PhD, Director of the MIT AgeLab. “Our research contributes to a better understanding of the impact exercise may have on driving skills as we age, and it offers simple exercises that can help contribute to a more positive driving experience.”

Some normal age-related changes that can impact drivers as they age, include:

  • Declining night and peripheral vision
  • Greater susceptibility to glare
  • Reduced strength and reflexes
  • Changes in flexibility and coordination

In a randomized, controlled study, The Hartford and the MIT AgeLab tracked experienced drivers ages 60–74 and armed them with physical fitness programs to practice for 15–20 minutes daily. The exercise program focused on four areas – flexibility, range of motion, strength and coordination. Participants’ driving skills were assessed before and after the exercise program with a combination of in-lab tests, a driving simulator and the instrumented the MIT AgeLab Aware Car.

The Hartford and the MIT AgeLab suggest a two-step action plan to empower drivers to exercise as part of an overall driving wellness plan.

  1. Check with your health care provider to create the best exercise plan for you.
  2. Follow a regular exercise program. Connect with friends, build it into your calendar, and make sure you spend at least 15–30 minutes a day being active.

Now that we know simple exercises can contribute to a more positive driving experience, we encourage mature drivers to consider exercise as another way to stay safe on the road.

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