The Driver’s Essential Stretches for Long Car Rides

Traveling may be the most inspiring, invigorating thing you can do, but sitting in a car for hours on end can really get you down. Believe me. Having just driven 14,000 miles around the country, I succumbed to ‘driving depression’ dozens of times. The tightness, stagnation and required focus is a lot to handle for hours on end. Sitting in the driver’s seat takes a huge toll on the body, and since ‘sitting kills,’ stretching at every opportunity can make the difference between slow, mind-and-butt-numbing torture and a relaxed travel experience filled with podcast enlightenment.

Along with a few good shoulder and ankle rolls, here are six great stretches that I found essential on long drives. Do these to avoid devolving into a tightly knotted ball of tension and stress when you’re behind the wheel.

Essential Stretches for Long Car Rides

Wrists: Unsupported on the steering wheel, your wrists can become stiff and frozen after hours of driving. To combat this, bend your wrists forward or back and carefully press them against the steering wheel. You’ll feel a gentle stretch that reawakens your forearms. Repeat on both sides, making sure not to rush.

Essential Stretches for Long Car Rides

Neck: We all have neck tension, and driving only makes it worse. Reach over your head and grab your left ear with your right hand. Keeping both shoulders down and plugged into your back, gently pull your left ear towards your right shoulder. You should feel a gentle pulling sensation in your left neck and shoulder. Breathe deeply. Release. Repeat on the other side.

Essential Stretches for Long Car Rides

Back/Hamstrings: Give your spine and hammies some love. To start, press both hands on the side of your car and form your body into a right angle at your hips. Keeping your arms and knees loosely straightened, press the heels of your hands into the car and the heels of your feet into the earth. Don’t let your shoulders rise towards your ears. You should feel a pleasing (if not intense) stretch through your hamstrings and a lengthening of your spine. Carefully undulate through your spine a bit to work out any cracks, stiffness or kinks.

Essential Stretches for Long Car Rides

Hips: Sitting for hours really cramps your hips’ style. To loosen up, lift your right leg onto the rear bumper of a hatchback or the floor of an opened passenger’s seat. (You can also do this on the ground if it feels more comfortable.) Lunge forward onto the leg, keeping the knee over or behind your toes and the back leg reaching long through the heel. You should feel a stretch soaring from your hips into your torso. For a deeper stretch, lift the left arm up towards the sky next to your ear and reach your body long in a slight diagonal forward and to the right, as shown above.

Essential Stretches for Long Car Rides

Chest: Odds are, if you’re clenching a steering wheel for hours, your chest muscles are going to clench too. This can roll your entire shoulder and upper back forward, lending an unwanted hunched look to your posture. The remedy: stand with one arm stretched out against the frame of your car, a sign post or a nearby tree. Twist your torso gently in opposition until you feel a stretch across your chest muscles. Take a few deep, slow breaths. Repeat on the other side. Play around with the angle of your arm (higher or lower) to determine which areas of your chest need the stretch the most.

Essential Stretches for Long Car Rides

Glutes: Open your trunk. Place your left foot on the bumper/trunk at a right angle to your body (or as close to that as you can). If you’re really tight, you should feel a gentle stretch already. Otherwise, tilt your torso forward over your leg gently, keeping your hips square to the car. Along with a few squats, this should help to reawaken and relubricate those sleeping butt muscles. Hold and breathe. Repeat on both sides.

In addition to lubricating your limbs, it can also help to shut your eyes and do some gentle eye rolling exercises to give yourself a visual reset. Gazing off into the distance of endless road for hours on end can really exhaust your vision.

Essential Stretches for Long Car Rides

Make sure you get the blood circulating through your limbs by taking a short but brisk walk or maybe even busting out ten or twenty assisted squats in a rest area—do whatever movements that feel good for your body! Yeah, you’ll look a little funny. But you will feel so much better when you shake the crust off of those stiff limbs. Don’t let the discomfort of driving ruin your travel experience. Keep your body healthy and limber and the positive vibes will soon follow!

Do you have a stretching routine when you travel? Share your best tips below!

Related:

5 Hips Stretches That Undo the Effects of Sitting
Hey, It’s Okay That You’re Not Perfect
It’s Time to Ditch Canola Oil

130 comments

Clare O
Clare O'Beara3 months ago

I tend to just break the journey somewhere I can get a light lunch and coffee. Walking around helps. Otherwise my back hurts.

SEND
Sue H
Sue H3 months ago

Helpful information, thanks.

SEND
Danuta W
Danuta W3 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

SEND
Chrissie R
Chrissie R3 months ago

Wonder what the reaction would be if you tried these on the side of the road or at a rest stop?

SEND
Stephanie s
Stephanie Y3 months ago

Thank you

SEND
Ruth S
Ruth S3 months ago

Thanks.

SEND
Sarita Elman
Sarita Elman8 months ago

These exercises are great. I drive to Florida every winter - alone, except for my dogs. That's 2700 km ( about 1700 miles) in 3 days, and I make sure to stop every 3 hours to walk the dogs and do some stretches, as well as get a good night's sleep at motel stops. Of course, if the weather is bad or there's a lot of congestion on the highways, the trip will take longer than 3 days.

SEND
John B
John Babout a year ago

Thanks Jordyn for sharing the info and photos.

SEND
william Miller
william Miller1 years ago

thanks

SEND
federico bortoletto
federico b1 years ago

Grazie dell'articolo.

SEND