If you’re like many, you dread your daily commute. Sadly, this necessary evil may be doing more than giving you less time to spend with those you love the most. It might be wreaking havoc on your health.
According to Healthline, more Americans are commuting to work each day from farther distances. The cost of living is skyrocketing in some urban areas. Also, more people are doing at least some of their work from home these days. So, the fact that some people are choosing to live many miles from their place of work isn’t a big surprise. Unfortunately, numerous studies show your commute, even if it’s only a 10-mile one, can have several negative effects on your health.
In January of 2019, Haven Life revealed the top 10 worst commuting cities in the country. Some of the most egregious offenders included Palmdale, California; New York City; Newark, New Jersey; and Chicago.
In the areas with the most traffic, commuters can spend more than 80 minutes going to and from their workplaces. Research for the findings was gathered from information released by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Researchers came up with the term “super commuter” in 2012. The word describes those who basically live in one city, but commute to another one for their jobs. Generally, “super commuter” refers to people who spend hours each day commuting. Some travel as much as three to four hours in each direction.
Richard Jackson, professor emeritus of environmental health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, revealed, “This kind of travel raises your blood pressure.” He went on to add, “It raises your cortisol level, it raises your adrenaline level, it actually raises your risk of having a heart attack during and for about an hour after you’re doing this. So, there are direct physical threats.”
Jackson has researched how “the built environment,” urban design and neighborhoods, impact people’s health for years.
Besides messing with your blood pressure, adrenaline, and cortisol levels, commuting reportedly increases your exposure to air pollution and increases your risk for respiratory problems.
It’s also another significant way people in the U.S. have become more sedentary. When you’re in the car, you’re sitting. Jackson stated, “There are lots of upstream causes for our obesity and diabetes but the removal of physical activity from our lives is a very big one. A generation ago, 60-70 percent of kids walked to school and now it’s only about 20 percent.”
In addition to contributing to inactivity, commuting can cause you to make poor nutritional choices. When people get the munchies during a long commute, they often reach for the quickest thing available, fast food. And, everyone knows fast food is packed with diet derailing and health harming calories, fat, sugar, and salt.
A 2012 study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine focused on commuters in metropolitan areas in Texas. Researchers found that those with longer commutes, about 15 miles, were more likely to have unhealthy waistlines, more likely to be obese, and less physically active. A mere 10-mile commute was linked with an increase in high blood pressure.
In contrast, research suggests people who physically commute to work, by walking or biking, actually lower their risks of suffering a stroke or heart attack.
According to Healthline, the most obvious effects of a long commute are typically mental rather than physical. These include anger, stress, and boredom. A 2015 Canadian study revealed that those burdened with a long commute had diminished satisfaction with life.
Curtis Reisinger, PhD, director of the Northwell Health Employee and Family Assistance Program and Chief, Psychiatry-Psychological Services, Long Island Jewish Medical Center, New Hyde Park, New York, said, “When you’re driving in difficult traffic, you are using a lot more of your physical and mental energy, which can be exhausting… It’s not only emotional exhaustion, you actually get physically exhausted from muscle tension.”
You might not be able to avoid a long commute to and from work. But, you can do some things to make it less stressful, and stop any potential damaging to your health. Keep your car neat and clean. Driving in a vehicle free of clutter can make your commute more relaxing. Listen to music or podcasts you enjoy. Varying your route can also add interest and stimulation to an old, monotonous routine.