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Can a high intensity interval training program (Truck-Fit) improve the heart health of truck drivers

Associate Professor Nicholas Gilson, Institution: The University of Queensland

2018 Vanguard Grant

Years funded: 2019-2022


Long-distance truck drivers, most of whom are men, are one of the most important, yet unhealthiest occupational groups in Australia. Heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and obesity are endemic within the industry, and these health issues in turn impact sleep quality, fatigue and driving performance. Despite these concerns, truck drivers remain an underserved group, with long hours spent driving and geographically challenging work environments limiting health promotion options and services. A compelling case can be made for high intensity interval training (HIIT) as an effective intervention for male long-distance truck drivers.

HIIT involves one or more short bursts of high intensity exercise (e.g. 4 minutes, 3 times/week). This exercise mode resonates with men, improves cardio-respiratory fitness (CRF) and cardio-metabolic risks and conditions in obese adults, and benefits sleep quality, alertness and driving safety. Recognising the need to transition HIIT from the laboratory to real-world settings, this study will test the efficacy of ‘Truck-Fit’, a depot-delivered, scalable exercise referral program, led by an accredited exercise physiologist who progresses high risk drivers from supervised to self-administered HIIT over 16-weeks. The study will be a cluster randomised controlled trial, with driver depots randomly allocated to the 16-week HIIT program or a normal behaviour control.

 To assess program efficacy, we will administer laboratory health and fitness assessments at baseline and end-intervention, process evaluation of HIIT, and a post-intervention driver focus group and depot manager interviews to assess barriers and facilitators to implementation. Our main outcome will be cardiorespiratory fitness; secondary outcomes will be HIIT compliance, and impact on driver sleep quality and fatigue. The study findings will provide valuable pilot data to support applications for a larger effectiveness trial (NHMRC Ideas Grant 2020).

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