Long Commutes Can Kill

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Your new job in the city is great, but the commute’s a killer. Literally. A new study finds that longer commutes are linked to poor health.

Researchers examined the physical activity and health of 4,297 commuters in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin, Texas areas. This included calculating body mass index, measuring cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and determining cardiovascular fitness using a treadmill test.

People with longer home-to-work commutes were less healthy, with higher BMI, waist circumference and blood pressure. They also spent less time participating in moderate to vigorous exercise, and had a lower level of cardiovascular fitness. All of these are risk factors for diseases like heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

Obviously, people who spend a long time commuting have less time to exercise, so researchers looked at what would happen when they took into account physical activity and cardiovascular fitness.

This decreased the connection between commuting distance and obesity—both BMI and waist circumference—indicating that physical activity likely plays a large role in the health of commuters.

Blood pressure, however, was still higher for long commuters, even when taking into account physical activity. Researchers suggest that this may be related to the stress of the commute, especially given that “the Dallas–Fort Worth region is ranked among the top fıve most congested metropolitan areas in the U.S.”

The study does not directly show that long commutes worsen your health, but previous studies have linked being sedentary—such as watching television or driving—with an increased risk of death.

To offset the negative effects of the commute, try commuting during off-peak hours for a shorter trip, squeezing exercise into your workday, or biking to work, if possible.

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