The Commute to Work Is Killing Me and You.

A recent article in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine points to a relationship between the amount of time spent driving to and from work and cardiovascular mortality. They did this study using over 4000 commuters in Dallas and Austin Texas.

Their study shows a high correlation between long commuter times and higher blood pressure. Really? Are they trying to imply that shouting at the other idiot drivers (it is always the other driver 🙂 ) might raise your blood pressure or that sitting in stop-and-go (okay mostly stop) traffic when you need to get somewhere is something less than relaxing. I’m hoping they did not spend a lot of money on that revelation and I certainly hope it wasn’t paid for with tax dollars.

They also say that there is a relation, but not as strong between longer commutes and increased waist size and BMI (body mass index). Again I must control my shock. After all, who would think that longer commutes which steal time during those precious few hours between work days might cause some people to prefer extravagances such as eating, sleeping and just relaxing a bit after a grueling day over boring exercise.

On the other hand, look around your neighborhood and count the number of people who hire lawn services to maintain their lawn just so they have time to go to the gym. Or how about those who hop into their car to go a couple blocks down the road to a convenience store to pick up something they forgot rather than walking or riding a bike. Okay, walking and riding a bike may not keep you safe from those idiot drivers you just yelled at on the way home, but that’s not the real point.

Here is my real point, actually several real points:

  • If you work in a job where you sit all day, get up occasionally and walk around the floor. If you are a manager, this might be a good way to keep in touch with what your staff really does during the day.
  • Take a break at lunch to walk around the block. Lunch is not just ‘the simple joy of lunch’ as in the McDonald’s commercial. It is also a chance to get some fresh air and let your mind regroup and process what you’ve been doing. You might even discover that a walk stimulates thinking of solutions to problems or breaking through that mental block on the report you are trying to write.
  • Walks also allow you to decompress from the work pressures you’ve been dealing with. Think about the ‘forced’ exercise programs that are part of the Japanese and Chinese corporate cultures.

Maybe they know something that we forgot. Is it possible that longer commutes could affects what people eat for supper? With less personal time, perhaps some people rely too much on fast food stops or frozen dinners that can be quickly nuked in your microwave. Between the salt and preservatives in both of these, they could also directly correlate to blood pressure and BMI issues.

The study did not compare the effect of long commutes where the commuter relied mostly on bus or train transportation. When commute times can be used to finish some last minute work, catch up on news, or just relax and decompress while someone else ‘drives’ is the effect on blood pressure reduced?

Could more companies offer the ability to work from home one or two days a week to their best performers. How much would this reduce blood pressure and encourage more healthy activity to keep employees fit and productive? (BTW, it would also reduce traffic congestion and need for more and bigger office complexes and reduce the cost of heating and air conditioning.)

Here’s to thinking (dreaming) outside of the box. C’ya next time.


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