Thursday, May 10, 2012

Does Commute Time Add to Health Risk?

What is your work commute like? If you're like me, it consists of a few steps from your bedroom to your office, but that isn't reality for the vast majority of workers. Most people have to go out to work and that's a given, particularly with jobs that are hands-on.

For many years, the trend in housing has been to spread out away from the city cores. Suburbs blossomed and some people went further out, to live in rural areas, commuting back to the city for work.
To them, the added commute time is the price they are willing to pay to live as far from the city as is possible. But is this such a good idea? Can the long commute be harmful to your health? Some researchers say yes.

A study published in the most recent issue of the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that longer commuting distances were associated with health risks, such as decreased cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) and increased weight. There doesn't seem to be a difference if the commute was by car or by public transit, because the basis of is is the lack of physical activity and the time that the commute may take away from a person's ability to participate in some sort of exercise.

The study of over 4,000 people in Texas found, "people who drove longer distances to work reported less frequent participation in moderate to vigorous physical activity and decreased CRF, and had greater BMI, waist circumference, and blood pressure. The association remained when physical activity and CRF were adjusted for, although to a lesser degree for BMI and waist circumference. Those who commuted more than 15 miles to work were less likely to meet recommendations for moderate to vigorous physical activity, and had a higher likelihood of obesity. Commuting distances greater than 10 miles were associated with high blood pressure."

What do you think? Do you agree? Or is this just an excuse and these people may  not have exercised anyway? When we lived in a suburb off the island of Montreal, it could take my husband anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes to get home, by car, from work. Yet, he still went to the gym almost every day. Now that we've moved back into the city proper, his commute is about 15 minutes, maybe 20 and he still goes to the gym almost every day.

I think there could be some merit in this. If you're a parent of young children and you already spend a lot of time away from them at work and with your commute, you may not have time for individual exercise. However, how about doing activities with the family? This way, you could get your physical activity and family time in together.


John said...

Oh definitely. My last commute was a killer- an hour each way in bumper to bumper traffic. Yay NJ!

Now that I've moved to Maryland, I'm close enough to walk to work each day. I also have more energy and time to walk to the gym and work out after work.

Sue Ann Bowling said...

Well, for some there's bicycle commuting (even here in Alaska, though when I drove to work bicycles on ice terrified me.) But the main reason I retired early was that I couldn't drive about 6 months of each year, and I found it almost impossible to get to and from work.