Positive Aging SourceBook
Posted by Positive Aging SourceBook on 03/27/2015

MIT AgeLab Reveal Benefits of Exercise on Mature Drivers

The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence and MIT AgeLab released a  new study findings on the benefits of exercise for mature drivers. The study, involving drivers ages 60-74, found that exercise can enhance flexibility and range of motion, key factors to safe driving as one ages.

With more Americans getting healthier and living longer (Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, August 2012), this study offers insight into how exercise can keep older adults on the road longer as well.

After study participants conducted a set exercise regimen for eight to 10 weeks, they:

–   Reported greater ease in turning their heads and bodies to back-up and to see blind spots when changing lanes

–   Were able to rotate their bodies further to scan the driving environment while making turns

–   Were able to get into their cars more rapidly, demonstrating greater overall flexibility

The research also surveyed drivers 50+ and found that half have not considered how exercise might be beneficial to their ability to drive. Those surveyed also identified the physical aspects they find most challenging when it comes to driving. They are:

  • Turning their head and body to look behind when backing up (41%);
  • Getting in and out of the car (22%); and
  • Turning their head to see blind spots when changing lanes (19%).

Not only does exercising daily contribute to a more positive driving experience overall, it may also improve the types of driving-related movements that many people find challenging.

The Exercises

The participants in our study participated in an exercise program that focused on four areas – flexibility, range of motion, strength and coordination.

  • Strength Exercises: Strength is important for many driving tasks such as pressing down on a brake pedal. Exercises like biceps curls and squats can help enhance a driver’s strength.
  • Range of Motion Exercises: Range of motion is central to actions like putting on your seatbelt easily. Performing exercises like back stretches and heel drops can improve your range of motion.
  • Flexibility Exercises: Flexibility is necessary for movements like getting in and out of your car easily. To enhance your flexibility, consider exercises like chest and shoulder expansions and shoulder stretches.
  • Coordination Exercises: Coordination can help with the integration of movement in your upper and lower body, such as simultaneously braking and turning. Soccer kicks and lateral steps are good exercises for boosting your coordination.

Exercises like these are easy to learn, can be done anywhere and can be combined with your current exercise program. To learn more, download a copy of our exercise guide.

Two-Step Plan

To add or begin an exercise program to boost your driving wellness:

  1. Check with your health provider on the best exercise plan for you. Review our exercise guide and come up with your own plan.
  2. Follow a regular exercise program. Connect with friends, build it into your calendar, and try to spend at least 15-30 minutes a day being active.

About Our Research

Our research tracked experienced drivers ages 60-74 as they followed a physical fitness program for 15-20 minutes per day over eight to 10 weeks. 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 MIT AgeLab Aware Car. The research also surveyed drivers age 50+ about exercise and driving as well as the most challenging aspects of driving.

By: Steve Gurney

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