Your Long Commute: The Newest Thing Probably Killing You

Illustration for article titled Your Long Commute: The Newest Thing Probably Killing You

Are you at work right now? Oh nooo. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but if you had to drive more than 10 miles to get there this morning, then your body is probably really mad at you. You see, a new study has discovered something which many of us already intuitively understand: long commutes suck. And now we have proof that they're legitimately bad for your health too. Bummer. Though on the bright side, maybe you can use this as ammo in your case for being allowed to work from home.


To determine the particular toll a long commute takes on us, researchers studied more than 4,000 people who lived in and around Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin, Texas, where long, painful commutes are apparently an unfortunate reality of daily life. They measured a long list of health indicators in these drivers, including cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), BMI, cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure. People also self-reported any moderate to vigorous physical activity they'd engaged in in the previous three months.

What the researchers found was that having a longer commute was linked with having decreased CRF, a higher weight, and "other indicators of metabolic risk." Funnn. People who drove longer distances also reported lower levels of physical activity—not surprising, since a longer drive means less time in the day to do other things like exercise. But even after researchers adjusted for physical activity and CRF, the association between long commutes and things like obesity and blood pressure was still there. Excellent. Now not only is sitting at your desk all day long killing you, but your drive to and from work is also ruining everything.

Still, you are probably fine. I mean, you biked to work right? Or better yet you set up camp in your cubicle and just live at the office? Oh, you drive to work? Sorry, buddy. Well, hopefully your drive is less than 10 miles, because commutes longer than that were associated with high blood pressure. And once you get over a 15-mile commute, you're also looking at a higher likelihood of being obese. OK, so besides the fact that you're sitting in a car, and therefore are not exercising during the time spent commuting, what accounts for these increased health risks?

Well, Dr. Christine M. Hoehner, of Washington University, is the lead researcher on the study, and she explains what might happen:

The Dallas-Fort Worth region is ranked among the top five most congested metropolitan areas, and those with longer commutes may be more likely to be exposed to heavy traffic resulting in higher stress levels and more time sitting.

Ahh, the pleasures of a little road rage. It's so weird that spending prolonged periods getting increasingly frustrated with your fellow drivers would be bad for you, right? I mean, it seems like constantly having to give people the finger would be healthy…but alas, it seems not.

So, if you're one of the unfortunate people with a long, arduous drive to and from work, maybe it's time you march into your bosses office and explain that your being allowed to work from home is now matter of life or death. Or, at the very least, maybe you can demand they provide you with one of those newfangled treadmill desks to help you ward off all of the horror that comes from commuting. It's really the least they can do for you after you jam yourself into a car for long stretches and are forced to endure the terrible driving habits of your fellow humans on a daily basis.


Commuting Is Bad For You [Live Science]

Image via Diego Cervo/Shutterstock.



It's probably the city-planner-from-a-librul-college in me talking but the root of this problem is shitty planning. Over reliance on cars, thinking you can build infinite suburbs, separating living areas from working areas by miles and miles of land. There's always the odd person who's just unlucky that their job is far from their work place but i'm pretty sure by large long commutes are caused by housing developments and sprawl planned to be away from the "bustle" of a city and treating a car as a given part of life. And no one up the chain is willing to change that of course. How dare you try to limit car use? Okay I'm going to shut up now.