According to a new survey, long commutes are bad for you. Really bad:
One in three employees with a commute longer than 90 minutes say they have had recurring neck or back pain within in the past 12 months. Just about the same amount say they have been diagnosed with high cholesterol…
The study shows a strong correlation between obesity and the length of your commute…
Employees with long commutes experienced lower levels of enjoyment and higher levels of fatigue and worry than employees with short commutes.
These findings don’t surprise me at all. Here are the top 3 reasons why long commutes are bad for ya:
1: Commute time is butt time
A recent article in the NYTimes said this:
It doesn’t matter if you go running every morning, or you’re a regular at the gym. If you spend most of the rest of the day sitting — in your car, your office chair, on your sofa at home — you are putting yourself at increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a variety of cancers and an early death. In other words, irrespective of whether you exercise vigorously, sitting for long periods is bad for you.
And unless you commute by bicycle or walking/running you will spend most of your commute time on your butt, either behind your steering wheel or on a bus or train seat. This is bad for you even of you’re otherwise in good shape and get lots of exercise!
2: Commutes are stressful
Is your commute anything like this scene from the movie Office Space:
When do you commute? At the same time as everyone else.
You can almost expect a lot of traffic, delays, traffic jams, road work, lack of parking spaces, inconsiderate drivers and a host of other stress factors. Plus a lot of people always seem to leave home five minutes late so they’re in a hurry which just adds to the stress.
3: The commute takes time that you could spend on things that make you happy
The 1-2 hours you spend going to and from work is time that you can’t spend with your friends, kids, spouse, family or on exercise, movies, cooking, reading or other things that make you happy.
So I can easily see, why long commutes are bad for
What to do
So enough complaining – what are some things you can do, to reduce the impact of a long commute? Here are 5 suggestions:
Commute outside of peak times
Not all jobs will let you do this, but if you can come in earlier or later then maybe your commute will be faster and less stressful.
Leave for work a little earlier
If you leave for work in plenty of time, your commute make take a little longer but it will feel shorter and will be less stressful. It may take you an hour and ten minutes rather than just an hour, but at least you can spend that time in a more relaxed state of mind rather than fretting about whether or not you will be late.
Of course this works against point #3 above…
Commute by public transportation
This is not only environmentally better (lower carbon footprint) but it also means that you can get some work done during your commute and possibly reduce your working day accordingly.
I’ve seen studies that show that employees who telecommute 1-2 days a week are happier than those who come into the office every day. Is that an option for you?
Pick a job closer to where you live (or vice versa)
But maybe the simplest and most effective thing is to work close to where you live. The next time you look for a new job, maybe you should give preference to jobs that offer fewer or shorter commutes.
I fully realize that modern urban planning in most countries and most cities conspires to work against this. One notable exception is Copenhagen, that has focused on public transportation and bicycle safety since late 60s. And it works. I personally live 3 miles from work and ride my bicycle in every morning and 35% of all Copenhageners commute by bike. We’re also the happiest people at work? Coincidence? Probably mostly, but there may still be some causation going on :o)
How long is your commute? Have you tried having a long commute? How did it affect you and what did you do about it? Please write a comment, I’d love to know your take.