Longer commute distances cause health issues

By Sheryl Kay • Published: August 9th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

It’s easy to be frustrated by a long commute to work. Whether you spend an hour stuck in traffic or travel many miles to the office, more time spent commuting means less time doing something else that’s probably more productive.

Now, research shows a longer commute is more than just a nuisance.

In a study just published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, forty-three hundred men and women were monitored for their commute times to work. Other health issues were noted, too, including workout habits, waist size, body mass index, cholesterol and blood pressure.

After taking into account considerations like race, age and education, which can skew results, the investigators found that participants who spent the most time traveling to work were the least physically active in their daily lives.

They also found that those who traveled 30 miles or more per day were far more likely to be obese and have unusually large waist sizes when compared with those who traveled less than five miles a day.

Blood pressure also was elevated among the group of long-distance commuters.

Previous studies have linked poor health with sedentary behaviors like watching TV and playing video games, but unlike these activities, doctors can’t advise patients to simply stop commuting or cut back. It’s far easier to avoid becoming a couch potato than reducing commute time. So for those spending extended periods of the day stuck in a car or train, researchers advise increasing daily activity to help prevent unwanted inches from creeping across your belly. Another tip is to use music or an audiobook to create a soothing environment while you drive. This can help relieve tension, a potential cause of high blood pressure.

After all, commuting may not be fun … but it shouldn’t make you sick, either.