A recent study out of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis finds that long commutes increase the risk of high blood pressure and obesity and decrease the likelihood of exercise. The study, which included 4,297 workers in the cities of Dallas, Fort Worth, and Austin, Texas, shows that a commute of just 10 miles negatively impacts a person’s health. As if that isn’t bad enough, factoring in exercise time for those who commute 15 miles or more does little to aid physical fitness.
You see, I am a “super commuter.” Each day, I clock about 180 miles (four hours) round-trip in my car. If you think I’m crazy, you’re not alone. The typical reaction is one of stunned disbelief. But, don’t be too quick to judge. This is a trend that has been growing nationwide, and there are justifiable reasons for hitting the road for longer lengths of time. For many, the rationale is obvious — a source of income in a difficult economy. But, there’s more behind my perceived insanity. I enjoy the work I do.
Yes. These survey findings are concerning. And, trust me. I am quite aware of the throbbing pain that builds in my head as traffic slows down and the list of personal tasks scrolls through my head. But, there are some tricks I’ve learned along the way that I am happy to share.
Breathe deeply. It really does work wonders! Let’s face it. Unless you have the powers of Harry Potter, you cannot wave a magic wand and move the cars in front of you. So, accept the situation and make the best of it.
Create diversity. My car radio is usually tuned into news. But, if I feel myself getting antsy and my stress level growing (i.e. the same story I heard at 7 a.m. is on at 7 p.m.), I switch over to music or sports. Sometimes, silence is even better. The commute can provide much needed quiet time after a long day. Embrace it.
Stretch often. Back and leg pain are no strangers to the “super commuter.” So, make the most to work out those muscles.
Opt for the stairs rather than the elevator. If that gym membership has cobwebs, do what you can to get some exercise. Try doing lunges or squats while you brush your hair in the morning. A little physical activity is better than nothing.
Make the most of your time. If rising early is a reality, try to take a few minutes in the morning to do household chores. Even if it’s five minutes, checking off some personal “to do’s” early in the day helps to alleviate a bit of that late day, travel stress. Plus, psychologically, it’s nice to come home to a neat environment.
The old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do,” works here. Confession: I don’t follow my own advice nearly as often as I should. But, when I do, it can help.
Safe travels and see you on the road!