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Killer Commute: Your Daily Drive Could Be Deadly

Traffic jam – Loas Angeles

For 3 years during and after college I did a daily hour-long commute to a job where I sat at a desk for 10 hours. Altogether it was 12 hours of my day spent sitting. Sitting at the desk in front of the computer, sandwiched between an hour of sitting in rush hour traffic on each end. Needless to say, I learned the meaning of “secretary butt” (but the convenient Taco Bell down the road didn’t help that very much either).

I could have probably conducted this research myself considering I was always tired, had constant headaches, put on about 40 pounds and rarely did anything fun because I NEVER! HAD! TIME!, but someone else beat me to it (I was too busy screaming in traffic at the idiot who merged too slow). As it turns out, long commutes and extended periods of sitting lead to divorce, obesity, depression, loneliness and early death. SURPRISE!

Studies have shown that while you’re sitting, your muscles slow their activity and your calorie-burning rate plunges as low as one calorie a minute. Insulin levels drop and the risk of type-2 diabetes increases. Obesity starts to creep around the corner and your HDL (good cholesterol) levels drop.

These risks don’t wait around for years worth of sitting before they come into effect, either. They are actually so immediate, scientists are comparing it to the risk of lighting up a cigarette.

Aside from these awful health effects, a long daily commute can take a toll on your love life, relationships and happiness. The more you’re sitting in traffic, the less time you’re spending socializing and enjoying quality time with friends and family. Not only that, but as you’re driving home from work you are literally doing nothing, which can lead to loneliness and depression.

Working from home is likely the best solution to battling these risks, but unless your job takes place solely on the Internet, that might not be an option. If you’re cooped in the cube all day, get up and walk around every 20-30 minutes.

Try to live less than 15 miles from your place of work. Even if you can shave 15 minutes off your commute, that’s an extra half hour to an hour each day (depending on traffic) you can spend doing more productive leisure activities.

Take public transportation if it’s offered in your city. Even if it’s a bus or train, you can at least multitask and make use of your time if you’re not the one at the wheel. Bring a book or newspaper and get some reading in before heading in to the office or arriving home. It’ll cut down on frustration and allow you to unwind so you’re not venting to your spouse about the idiot tailgating you.

Bike or walk to work. If this isn’t possible, relocate! Live in a smaller, denser neighborhood. Sure, you might love the idea of living off in the suburbs with an extra guest bedroom and bathroom, but how much use will you actually get out of it? Live where the majority of necessities are within walking distance and you can enjoy the luxury of local living, even if you’re in a two bedroom loft. When everything is a hop, skip and a jump away, you’re bound to be happier, fitter and more productive.

Image CC licensed by respres: Los Angeles Traffic

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Colin

    Great blog, I used to have a five min walk to work and traffic now causes daily grief – trying to work from home when I can

  • http://www.the9billion.com jjprojects

    That seems to be becoming more and more possible these days, at least for part of the time, with the continued development of the web.

  • Joseph Tohill

    Great article! The huge expansion in highways in North America, meant initially to alleviate traffic and speed up transportation, has ironically accomplished quite the opposite, as commute times get worse and worse. And all the sprawl that comes with such expansion is hugely wasteful of land area. I shudder when I think of how close we came here in Vancouver to having a highway go right through our downtown core. That would have virtually destroyed the plethora of transportation options people have now downtown (walking and biking), and would have caused some major congestion issues.

    I also recently came across some rather troubling research that suggests that people who work from home in fact have a higher tendency to live in suburbs with big houses (at least here in North America). I guess this is so that they have more space for their home office or something – downtown apartments are so small here in Vancouver. That certainly is a worrying statistic with the rise in people working from home these days. I guess we’ll see how it plays out in the next couple years though.

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