Live Longer by Commuting Less

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

This USA Today post is about a year old, but the information it shares about the link between long commutes and poor health is still quite relevant and worth knowing about. The story references a study by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

"This is the first study to show that people who commute long distances to work were less fit, weighed more, were less physically active and had higher blood pressure...all of these are strong predictors of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers."

There are plenty of reasons for the links between a long commute and ill health.

One reason is time. Time spent behind the windshield robs you of time to exercise. Ironically, you need more time to exercise if you're driving a lot because driving is such a stationary activity.

You also have less time to cook healthy foods. People who drive longer are often much more prone to reach for fast food, which can quickly take a toll on one's health and well-being.

People with long commutes usually have to get up earlier, which means inviting the poor health problems that come with inadequate sleep. 

Then there's the stress. You're losing time with your family. You're not getting anything productive done. And traffic is stressful too. 

Traffic jams, rude drivers and harsh weather conditions are enough to raise anybody's blood pressure. Stress results in hormonal changes and weaker immune systems, too.

Public transportation helps by reducing the amount of traffic on the road, which reduces the time and stress involved in making the daily commute. It also offers many commuters the option of taking a stress-free trip to work.

Instead of slamming on the breaks to avoid someone who just cut you off you could sit back in a clean, climate-controlled bus or van, enjoying a book, a game on your smart phone, or the chance to catch a short nap. You could even sip your morning coffee instead of gulping it down between lane changes.

Public transportation can't reduce distances, so if you still live 45 miles away from your job you're still going to suffer from some of the issues of reduced time and increased stress. But public transportation options can still help that time pass far more pleasantly, which is better for your health overall.