Exercise, stretches can help mature drivers keep the keys longer

New AAA research shows fatigue and poor physical functioning are leading factors that cause older adults to stop driving.

New research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds that increased fatigue and poor physical functioning are leading factors that can result in mature adults limiting their driving. But simple steps, like weekly exercise and stretching can improve safe driving abilities and keep mature adults on the road longer.

The AAA Foundation commissioned researchers at Columbia University to evaluate eight domains – depression, anxiety, fatigue, sleep disturbance, pain interference, physical functioning, pain intensity and participation in social activities – to determine how changes in physical, mental and social health affect driving mobility for seniors. The report found that fatigue and poor physical functioning are most common among mature drivers who spend less time behind the wheel.

“Staying behind the wheel is important in helping senior drivers avoid factors like depression, so it’s important to find safe ways to extend their mobility,” said Theresa Podguski, director of legislative affairs at AAA East Central. “While there is some decline in physical fitness that is inevitable with age, even moderate exercise can go a long way toward producing positive results.”

Research shows that daily exercise and stretching can help mature drivers improve overall body flexibility and move more freely to observe the road from all angles. Physical strength also helps drivers remain alert to potential hazards on the road and perform essential driving functions, such: braking, steering, parking, looking to the side and rear, adjusting the safety belts and sitting for long periods of time.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that seniors who are physically able get between 2 1/2 to five hours of moderate-intensity exercise each week, or between 75 minutes to 2 1/2 hours of high-intensity physical activity. The exercises should include balance training as well as aerobic and muscle strengthening activities.

Mature adults should consult their doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen. They should also talk with a healthcare provider about ways to combat fatigue. Prioritizing getting at least seven hours of sleep each night can help seniors stay alert behind the wheel.

AAA recommends a series of stretches to improve neck, shoulder, trunk, back and overall body flexibility. As a leading advocate for senior driver safety, AAA also offers a variety of programs and resources to help mature adults improve their driving performance and avoid crashes.

For more information on AAA resources for older drivers, such as RoadWise online/classroom courses or other programs that help seniors better "fit" with their vehicles, visit www.SeniorDriving.AAA.com.

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