Healthy living

Commuting can be bad for your health

Commuting distance can be a health hazard Linked to increased waistlines and high blood pressure

Long commutes to work by car can be bad for your health, new research suggests.

People who drive more than 15 miles to work are more likely to be overweight, carry fat around their waist and have high blood pressure, a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found.

The researchers studied data on 4,297 men and women living in two Texas cities who commuted to work by car, and calculated the commuters shortest road distance from home to work.

Participants underwent a range of health tests, including blood sugar levels, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, cholesterol and blood pressure and were asked to report on how much time they spent on moderate to vigorous physical exercise each week.

People who commuted more than 15 miles to work were less likely to meet recommendations for moderate to vigorous physical activity, researchers from Washington University said.

They were also more likely to have a higher BMI, waist circumference and blood pressure, as well as lower cardiovascular fitness levels.

Commuting distances greater than 10 miles were also linked to high blood pressure.

Study leader Dr Christine Hoehner said: "This study yields new information about biological outcomes and commuting distance, an understudied contributor to sedentary behaviour that is prevalent among employed adults.

"It provides important evidence about potential mediators in the relationship between time spent driving and cardiovascular mortality."

Although "a longer commuting distance may lead to a reduction in overall energy expenditure," Dr Hoehner said that the stress of longer commutes and the time the commuters spent sitting down may also have contributed to the study findings.

The study did not look at the other types of sedentary behaviour such as the time spent sitting at work and television watching.

Dr Hoehner suggested that future studies were needed to examine the amount of time spent sitting in a number of different settings to more accurately identify the effects of commuting on health.

This article was published on Tue 8 May 2012

Image © LVDESIGN@Fotolia

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