Thursday, August 23, 2012

Local TV News Story - Prime Fighting for Driver Health

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Their job is to haul heavy loads, and it turns out that's what they've been doing.  Transportation workers have the highest obesity rate in the country and truck drivers take the cake, but one local company is working to reverse the trend.

Health experts aren't surprised at studies that show more than 85 percent of truckers are overweight and more than half of those people are obese.  The lifestyle is typically a sedentary one with long hours and fast food, but a Springfield-based business wants to beat those odds.

Inside southwest Missouri's largest trucking company's headquarters is a state-of-the-art fitness facility.

"We have two fitness instructors, have classes, and do weight training, yoga," said Prime Inc. founder Robert Low. 

That in itself is a story.

"We're very aware that truck drivers typically haven't been very healthy and that's a shame."

When Low built this fitness center about a decade ago, he felt the effects,
"I lost probably about 30 pounds," Low said.

His drivers started dropping weight too.  They even won a weight-loss competition against other trucking companies, but that wasn't enough.

"I think maybe 70 to 80 percent of our drivers unfortunately are overweight and maybe half of those are obese."

Here's where the story gets its legs and arms and core.

"All this is good cardio," said Siphiwe Baleka as he squatted, shadow boxed, and did a number of full-body exercises.

In July, the former truck driver launched the company's, and maybe the country's, first 13-week fitness program specifically for truck drivers.

"I gained 15 pounds in the first two months of my driving career, and that scared me," Baleka tells us.

So, during his three-year driving career with Prime, Baleka developed the program with the driver in mind.  There are 31 different exercises, performed in different combinations 15 minutes a day, and all within just a few feet of the truck.

Participants keep a food journal and Baleka tracks their progress online.

"Yesterday this particular driver burned 5,000 calories," he said, reading off his computer screen.

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