Could your daily commute be the cause of your health problems? You might not think of driving as a health hazard, but studies show that it could well be. The act of driving, plus the feelings your having during your commute, could be causing various kinds of health problems. Want to learn more? Then keep reading…
The Average South African Commute
According to one source, the average driving commute time for South Africans in 2013 (the most recently released statistics) was 40 minutes each way. That’s 80 minutes a day, or 6.7 hours a week, 26.7 hours a month (that’s more than a day!), or around 346.7 hours a year (which amounts to over two weeks of 24 hour a day travel time over the year). Given this, maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising that your commute has an impact on your health. But what exactly could be happening to your body whilst you’re commuting?
Your Commute Makes Your Blood Pressure Rise
Your commute makes your blood pressure spike whilst you’re driving. This is mostly due to just stress. Maybe you’re running late, maybe you’re worried about the day ahead, maybe the traffic is bad, but the very act of driving through that workday rush hour traffic raises your blood pressure temporarily.
Not only that though, but there could be a long term effect on your blood pressure. A study done in the United States found a strong link between long commute times and high blood pressure. High blood pressure can cause heart disease and strokes.
The solution? Leaving home early may be your best plan. You’ll be less stressed since there will be less time pressure, and will be likely to miss the worst of the traffic if you leave earlier. And waking up 30 minutes earlier to lower your blood pressure isn’t too much of a sacrifice.
Your Commute Hurts Your Back
Lower back pain is one of the primary reasons cited for keeping workers off work, and slouching in your car seat for hours at a time during your commute isn’t going to help your lower back in the slightest. This is particularly true since many of us do not have our driving seats adjusted properly, causing even more problems.
You might not be able to cut down on your commute time, but you can make sure that your car seat is doing the job it was designed to do. Check out the video below to find out how to properly adjust your seat to give you a safe and comfortable commute.
Your Commute and Your Blood Sugar
The same US study cited above also found that a daily commute of more than 10 miles (that’s around 16 km) was associated with higher blood sugar, again probably due to the added stress of commute time driving. High blood sugar over time can lead to diabetes, one of South Africa’s largest killers.
If you’re worried about your blood sugar, again, leaving the house earlier may solve the stress problem. But eating a healthy, well balanced diet is going to help too!
Your Commute Makes You Anxious
The UK’s Office of National Statistics found that a commute time of more than 30 minutes each way resulted in far higher levels of stress and anxiety for commuters. Stress is never good, and being anxious simply leads back to getting more stressed, so this is a vicious cycle, and one that you need to break!
Sadly, you probably can’t do much to shorten your commute time, but you can make that time more enjoyable and therefore relaxing. Listening to audio books as you drive, for example, is a great way to make productive use of your commute time and to take your mind off the stress of traffic.
Your Commute is Unhealthy!
The bottom line here is that a long commute time is unhealthy. Various other studies have shown that people with long commutes are less happy or satisfied with their lives, that they have poorer heart health, have higher risks of depression, and higher cholesterol too.
With all of these health risks, you may want to think about cutting that commute time for good, maybe by changing offices or moving home, or by occasionally taking public transport rather than driving (which could have the added effect of lowering your car insurance premiums if you have a pay as you drive policy, as well as saving you money on petrol prices).
No matter how safely you’re driving, or how few driving mistakes you’re making, your commute is having an impact on your health. We tend to think of accidents as the main dangers of driving a car, but the truth is, driving itself is a health hazard.
If there’s one take home message here, it’s that if you have to commute, then leaving your home earlier to avoid stressful traffic and time pressure is probably the best health decision that you’ll make all day.
Main Subject: commute
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