Why Your Long Drive To Work Is So Bad For You

By Janice Larsen
Updated April 10, 2015
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Why Your Long Drive To Work Is So Bad For YouWith American cities sprawling, many people have to face long commutes to work each day. Depending on where you live and work, there may be no viable public transportation options, so driving for hours a day is the only way you can make it to your job. People have long realized the toll this takes in terms of time, but a new study reveals that a long commute can also be bad for your health.

Study Results On Commuting And Health

The research project was led by Christine Hoehner, from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. The study looked at 4,300 people, in three Texas cities where people often drive long distances - Austin, Dallas, and Fort Worth. They estimated the time and distance of each person's commute, and then cross-referenced that against health data such as blood pressure, exercise habits, waist size, body mass index, cardio-respiratory fitness, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol.

The findings are not good news for our car-centric society. According to the researchers, the longer you drive for your daily commute, the more apt you are to suffer from high blood pressure, obesity, and other health issues which can lead to chronic illnesses. It appears that long commutes really can damage your health.

This research was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Earlier studies had showed links between sedentary activities like video games and watching TV, and a variety of health issues. This is the first study to make that link to commuting.

Commuting Increases Obesity

According to study results, people who drive more than 15 miles to work are more likely to be obese. They tend to weigh more, and have larger waist sizes and more stomach fat, which can contribute to heart disease, strokes, and diabetes.

Part of this can be explained merely by time allocation. If you have to spend two hours every day driving, that means you don't have as much time to exercise. 76% of people who lived within 5 miles of their work got the recommended 30 minutes per day of exercise, but this figure dropped to just 70% for people who commute 30 miles or more every day.

This doesn't appear to be the only factor though. The researchers examined the numbers and adjusted for the lack of exercise time. Even after allowing for the difference in exercise levels, they still found a correlation between long commutes, obesity, and high blood pressure.

Commuting Raises Blood Pressure

Hoehner's team found that blood pressure became an issue for people who lived more than 10 miles from work. Part of this was due to getting less exercise, and some of the problems also seemed to be related to stress. Driving every day can cause stress, especially during the congested rush hour period. Slow traffic causes people to get anxious, upset, and can lead to road rage incidents. Enduring this stress twice a day could contribute to higher blood pressure.

Other possibilities are that people who have long commutes might not get enough sleep at night, or they might eat more fast food. These unhealthy habits could also contribute to elevated blood pressure.

You may not have a choice about your commute, but exercising, getting enough sleep, and eating right, can help to offset the negative health effects of driving.

* Disclaimer:
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.