3 Ways Your Commute Is Killing You — And What to Do About It

By Carrie Kirby on 8 January 2016 1 comment

How many times have you pounded your fist on the dashboard of your car and moaned, "This traffic is killing me!"

What if I told you it literally is killing you? Here are all the ways the better part of an hour that you spend driving to work each day is doing you real harm… and some healthier alternatives that might just save you.

Time in the Car Is Sedentary

People who commute more than 20 miles a day are more likely to have high blood sugar, high cholesterol, depression, and anxiety, according to a study of Texas road warriors. The authors blamed the health consequences on the fact that long drives leave less time for exercise.

The More You Drive, the More You Weigh

Daily car commuters gained more weight over a four-year period than occasional car commuters, and nearly twice as much as non-car commuters, an Australian study found. Overweight and obesity combined are the second-leading cause of preventable death in the United States.

Even on Public Transit, Long Commutes Wear You Out

A survey of Long Island rail commuters published in the journal Sleep showed that the longer the commute, the less sleep riders got at night. A Swedish study compared folks who drove or took transit to work to those who biked there; the train riders were more likely to feel stressed and exhausted, miss sleep, and call in sick.

Unfortunately, most of us can't just call our bosses and explain that commuting is unhealthy and therefore we can't go to work. Well, we can, but we won't get paid. So here are some more practical ideas for avoiding death by commute.

Consider Travel Time When Home and Job Shopping

Since commute time is a serious health issue, it's worthwhile to make it a priority right up there with the quality of schools and the cost of homes when you're deciding where to live. Whenever my family relocates for work, we start our home search with a local transit map. We pinpoint communities where we could walk or bike to a train or, in our current location, ferry. Where we live now, we are lucky enough to be able to get around without owning a car. Both my spouse and I have turned down job offers that would have forced us to drive long distances.

When you account for the impact on health, travel time becomes just as relevant as the pay and benefits offered.

Look Into Bike Commuting

People who pedal to work tend to get more exercise overall, because it's not as if they sit around more after work once the trip is done, according to a study of Spanish bike commuters. In my experience, many members of our community are unaware that it's possible to bring your bike along on the bus, train, and ferry, making it quite practical to pedal at least part of a long commute. (See also: The 5 Best Road Bikes)

Ask for Work Flexibility

Even if you can't avoid driving to work, you may be able to change your work hours slightly so that you drive before or after the peak traffic hours. Other professionals have success requesting one or more work-from-home days per week, which can free up time for a jog.

How do you get to work in the morning? Share with us in the comments!

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Heather Locklear

I just need to learn not to have road rage and slow down and take it easy