5 ways your commute is harming your health

By Scot Herrick | Cube Rules Commentary

Mar 09

Another reason to search for jobs where you can work from home at least part of the time…Scot


 

For many Americans, commuting to and from work is a surprisingly time-consuming part of the day. The average amount of time it takes to get to work is 25.5 minutes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Commuting can be annoying, but while you’re sitting in traffic waiting to get to work, frustration is far from the only harm being done.

Long commutes have been shown to put a strain on mental health, physical health and overall happiness. While you may not be able to ditch your time in the car, train, bus or taxi, you should know how your lengthy commute is hurting you.

Exposure to Pollution

It turns out that spending a lot of time on the road surrounded by other cars and breathing in fumes isn’t healthy for you. Especially if you live in an urban area, you are being exposed to harmful air pollution each time you’re on the road. This exposure can lead to cardiovascular problems, may link to birth defects and might even cause cancer.

Keeping your windows shut during your drive and using recirculated air instead of air from outside the car will help decrease the amount of pollution you are being exposed to. Biking or walking to work will expose you to this air pollution as well, but the benefits of putting your heart to work outweigh the risks of air pollution.

Increased Stress

Driving is stressful because it is unpredictable and can easily make you late to work. Commuters need to save extra time during their routine to allow for traffic. Sitting in that traffic is extremely stressful as well. As the minutes tick by, the body tenses and the mind starts rushing due to the time being wasted and the possibility of being late. This in turn leads to higher irritability and frustration.

Walking, biking and even public transportation has been shown to bring less stress than driving for a daily commute.

Hurt Back 

Long commutes do terrible things to the back and neck. The way we sit and slouch in the car is not ideal, so driving and sitting this way for an extended period of time has negative effects. The longer the commute, the higher the risk of back problems that cause recurring pain, according to a Gallup study about commuting and health problems.

Though it’s difficult to fix this problem, making an effort to sit up straight instead of curving your back can help in the long run. It can also help to use a lumbar support or a pillow behind your lower back.

Mental Health Decline

Commuting doesn’t just hurt you physically: It also harms you mentally. People with longer commutes have lower happiness and satisfaction, according to the same Gallup poll. The time spent commuting gives you a sense of isolation which is then carried into the rest of your day. To top it all off, commuting also affects the quality of your sleep. Sleep deprivation has been linked to depression and anxiety conditions.

If you use public transportation to get to work, making conversation with the people around you can ward off these feelings of loneliness and isolation. Walking or biking to work can also help, as exercise is a natural way to fight off depression and anxiety.

Increased Risk of Health Problems  

Among the rest of the concerns associated with commuting, your overall health takes a beating with each drive to and from work. Commuting has been shown to increase blood pressure, boost risk of obesity and heart attack, raise blood sugar and lead to high cholesterol. All of these physical health impairments will take a toll on your body over time. Some may even be concerns already: Raised cholesterol, for example, afflicts 17 percent of the adult U.S. population.

Remain aware of the effects your commute has on your body so that you can be proactive and take action to reverse these problems. If possible, try to switch up your commuting routine to include walking, biking or using public transportation. If you’re stuck with you and your car, try to keep calm and pleasant while on the road, exercise more when you can and fix your posture to save your back.

As you’re killing gas, your commute may be killing you. Take steps today to fight off the effects of your extended time in the car.


This is a guest post by Sarah Landrum. “After spending the best three and half years of my life at Penn State, I moved to Harrisburg to pursue my career. Fast forward a few months of punching the clock and loathing cubicle life, and I chose a new path in Marketing and a side gig as a freelance writer. Passionate about career development, I started Punched Clocks to share my advice on navigating the work world and achieving happiness and success in life and at work.”

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.