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The Price of a Commute

When you have started to live the Habits of Health, a lot of new medical research will feel like an exercise in common sense. For example, a new study found that people who commute to work by bicycle tend to live longer than those who commute by car, bus, or train. At this point, the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle are well known, and we have learned that long periods of sitting at any age can lead to a number of a health consequences.

If you don’t have the option to commute to work by bicycle—let’s be honest, it’s probably not practical for most of us—how is a study like this relevant to you?

The bigger lesson is not that you should go out and buy a bicycle and pedal to work even if it would take you half a day to get there. Instead, the lesson is that people who spend less time sitting and more time moving enjoy a wealth of health benefits. Unfortunately, your commute can easily add two to three hours of sedentary time to your day if you live in a high-traffic area. And then if you take that commute to an office and sit at your desk all day only to get back in your car and drive home, well, you have probably just spent 10 hours doing little more activity than clicking a mouse and turning your steering wheel.

While this might sound like too big of a change to be practical, consider eliminating your commute. If you find that your job is passively taking years off your life, perhaps it’s time to restructure your life so that you can spend more time with your loved ones now and in the future. Even if you can negotiate a few work from home days, you can eliminate a respectable amount of commuting time and replace it with something more active instead.

If you are stuck with the long commute, we can still find ways to introduce more movement into your life. And to be clear, we are not talking about doing a workout at the end of the day. That gym time is important too, but it’s not a substitute for regular motion throughout your daily routine.

Try these suggestions:

  • Take your phone calls standing.
  • Get a standing desk.
  • Take brief walks every hour.
  • Use a balance ball as a chair to make sitting a bit more active.
  • Take longer walks on your lunchbreak.
  • Park farther away from the door.
  • Go into work earlier or later when traffic is less heavy (so you spend less time in the car).
  • Plug in your headphones and bounce to the beat as your work.

None of these suggestions should feel like a workout, and that’s the point. Introducing little bits of movement throughout your day is important, and it shouldn’t feel incredibly intrusive. The more you move, the longer you are likely to live, so stop sitting still!

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