Written by Loren Grush
If a long commute to work wasn’t already bad enough, new research has revealed that it may also be bad for your health.
An analysis of over 4,200 residents living and working in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin, Texas metropolitan areas revealed that long periods of time commuting to and from work are associated with higher weight and lower fitness levels.
“Previous studies have looked at how sedentary behavior – such as TV viewing and time spent driving – affects health,” Christine Hoehner, assistant professor in the division of public health sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., and lead investigator, told FoxNews.com. “So we wanted to hone in on commuting distance specifically, because it’s such an important aspect of people’s daily routines.”
Hoehner and her team mapped the distance between each participant’s home address and work address, then associated each individual’s commuting distance with such variables as the person's BMI, waist circumference, cholesterol, blood pressure and more. The study also asked participants to self-report information regarding fitness and physical activity.
Overall, those who drove longer distances had higher BMIs, waist circumferences and blood pressure. Long distance commuters also reported decreased cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) and less frequent moderate to vigorous physical exercise. Increased weight, high blood pressure and low levels of fitness can increase a person’s risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and kidney failure.
While the results do not show that commuting specifically contributes to these adverse health effects, the researchers feel that it’s possible more time in the car takes away from time people can spend in the gym. Hoehner said it’s also possible that these findings highlight differences in lifestyles of longer commuters versus short commuters.
“Perhaps people who commute longer distances have a worse diet,” Heohner theorized. “They may have less discretionary time to cook meals and are more likely to eat fast food. It could also relate to sleep.