A recent study suggests that there is a connection between long commutes and decreased exercise time.
Long commutes are associated with "higher weight, lower fitness levels and higher blood pressure, all of which are strong predictors of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers," the study reported.
Being exposed to the daily hassles of traffic can lead to higher chronic stress and higher blood pressure, lead investigator Christine M. Hoehner of Washington University in St. Louis told ABC Action News.
Scientists studied residents from the Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin, TX, metropolitan areas to document their commuting distances, body mass and metabolic risk as well as waist circumference, fasting glucose, lipid levels and blood pressure. Commuters who said they drove longer distances also reported they took part in less moderate or vigorous physical activity. They had lower cardiorespiratory fitness, greater body mass index, waist circumference and higher blood pressure.
The study even showed a link between the obesity rate increase and the number of American commuters and their commute times. Workers commuting in private vehicles jumped from 41.4 million in 1960 to 112.7 million in 2000, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. And as suburbs have sprawled across the nation since the 1950s, commuter miles have increased, too, along with the time drivers spend sitting behind the wheel, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Though moving closer to work may not be an option, commuters should find ways to work physical activity into their work days, Hoehner says, suggesting that they could do activities such as walking during work breaks. Employers could also help, she says, by encouraging fitness breaks and by offering schedule flexibility to commuters, if possible.