Is your commute making you unhealthy?
Commuters are more likely to be anxious, dissatisfied and have the sense that their daily activities lack meaning than those who don’t have to travel to work, even if they are paid more,’ say The Guardian.
But we bet you already knew that.
Few people enjoy commuting, but here’s the worse news: did you know that travelling for more than 30 minutes a day can seriously affect your health? And even walkers and cyclists are at risk.
More than 3 million people spend over 2 hours commuting each day, and the UK average commute time exceeds 55 minutes.
So what do all these hours do to your body? And your mind?
Stress – the stress of commuting in rush hour can cause a long list of problems, including anxiety and depression, headaches, insomnia, digestive problems, heart and liver problems and high blood pressure.
Depression and anxiety – UK Office of National Statistics found that commuting for more than half an hour each way leads to more stress and anxiety.
Heart disease – According to research, driving for more than 10 miles one way can increase blood sugar (which causes diabetes) and cholesterol (which increases the risk of heart disease).
Weight gain – Argh! A study has found that the further you commute every day, the more likely you are to be overweight. This is especially so for drivers – although those that take public transport gained less weight, they still put on the pounds.
Lack of sleep and exhaustion – People who commuted for longer than 45 minutes each way were found to have lower sleep quality and higher exhaustion levels by the Regus Work-Life Balance Index.
Happiness and life satisfaction decline – A UK study found that riding a bus for more than 30 minutes decreases your life satisfaction. No surprise there, then. But perhaps most surprisingly, even riding a bike can affect you negatively. Commuters spending between 16 and 30 minutes cycling to work had lower happiness levels and higher anxiety than those who cycled for more. People walking more than 30 minutes to work had higher anxiety levels on average.
But enough of the doom and gloom – what can you do about it?
Take the train!
According to one study, people who commute by train are less stressed, perhaps because public transport can be more reliable than driving to work – depending on your city, of course.
Use the time wisely
If you’re taking public transport, do something productive so you don’t feel frustrated by the time you’re using up. Read a book, learn a language, use it for personal development outside of work, whatever you think will improve your general life satisfaction.
If you’re driving…
Driving long distances to work is the worst for your health. There are a few things you can do to combat the negative effects.
Listen to a podcast or relaxing music to reduce stress levels
Leave on time – nothing spikes your blood pressure like driving late through rush hour traffic
Wear comfortable shoes or clothes and concentrate on your posture to reduce aches and pains
Loosen up before you start – do some stretches
Buddy up. Car pools are a great way to reduce your amount of driving time, and they’ll also reduce the feeling of isolation and loneliness that a lot of solo commuters can experience.
If you’re cycling…
Inner-city cycling can be stressful, especially if your city doesn’t have great cycle lanes. Save yourself the stress and take a quieter route or give yourself more time to reach your destinations. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about getting your exercise in, so weight gain shouldn’t be a problem.
Get your 30 minutes a day
If you’re commuting for long hours, it can be hard to find time for exercise, which is why many of us experience weight gain. Try exercising before you leave the house, or get your 30 minutes in during the day at lunchtime. Also, take some healthy snacks for the journey to stop you reaching for the buffet cart.