Long Commute? You Might Be Less Healthy

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Might Be Less HealthyDo you spend a lot of time commuting? Researchers have made a health breakthrough by linking longer commutes with less fitness, more weight, and other indicators of risk to your metabolism. Might be time for some of us to really think about lifestyle.

As populations move further away from urban centers, more people spend longer hours behind the wheel. We already know that sedentary behavior leads to negative effects on heart health and metabolic health. But the true impact of long commutes in a car is less understood.

Researchers have found that longer commutes translate into decreased cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), increased weight, and other indicators of metabolic risk. We have essentially found that time spent driving has an influence on deaths due to heart ailments.

RECOMMENDED: How exercise can help you live longer. 

It studied 4,300 people in the Dallas-Fort Worthor Austin, Texas, areas. They measured CRF, body mass index (BMI), and certain risk factors like waist circumference, triglyceride levels, fasting blood glucose, HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and blood pressure. Participants also offered their exercise levels over the previous three months.

Those who drove longer distances had less exercise, decreased CRF and greater BMI and waist circumference, and elevated blood pressure. 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.

It seems that longer commutes replace exercise for many people. At the same time, both BMI and waist circumference were linked commuting distance even after adjusting for physical activity and CRF — suggesting that a longer commuting distance may lead to a reduction in overall energy expenditure.

Regions that are highly congested, like Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York, make people more likely to be exposed to heavy traffic resulting in higher stress levels and more time sitting behind the wheel. Still, commuting by automobile represents only one of many forms of sedentary behavior. There is also all the time spent sitting at jobs, watching TV, or being on the computer.

The best health advice here is to try to limit activities in your life that make you sedentary. You will be doing your body a world of good.