You can stop looking for excuses to move into a bigger place because science is giving you the best reason of all to move closer to your place of business: your weight!
In the United States the average commute time is more than 25 minutes, and nearly ninety percent of all Americans drive to work. An additional five percent of U.S. workers use public transportation to get to work, meaning that most of us spend an additional hour sitting on our butts in a vehicle.
The recent push by First Lady Michelle Obama to help us get moving is all the more difficult for the weight-challenged population when a long commute is factored in, as a recent study revealed.
Read on to find out how you can overcome commuter fatigue.
Long Commutes & Body Weight
It’s no secret that Americans spend more and more time in their cars. Whether it’s because fewer working Americans live in urban centers or that people simply don’t factor in commute time when they choose a residence, the fact is that we spend a significant amount of time going to and from work.
A new study was published recently in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine looked at how commuter times may contribute to weight gain, in addition to an already sedentary lifestyle. The study looked at 4,297 Texans living and working in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin urban areas.
The data studied began with the distance between homes and places of work, in addition to body mass index, blood pressure, waist circumference, cholesterol, cardio-respiratory fitness and fasting blood sugar levels. The study subjects also filled out questionnaires regarding their levels of physical activity in the 3 months preceding the study.
The findings revealed that those who had the longest commutes were the same subjects that participated in physical activity less frequently and lower cardio-respiratory fitness. Those with long commutes were also likely to have a higher BMI, blood pressure and waist circumference.
The study also found that those with a commute of longer than 15 minutes were less likely to keep commitments to physical activity and had a greater likelihood of obesity. Additionally, commuters who travelled more than 10 miles to work had greater instances of blood pressure.
Although there was a weak association for commute times and other risk factors, there was a significant association with blood pressure and body mass index. The longer time spent in traffic, the less likely commuters are to engage in any physical activity, particularly moderate to vigorous activity.
Sometimes you just need a guilty pleasure to make a long drive bearable; try this one!
Since commuting is a way of life for many Americans and workers around the world, it is an important factor in overcoming weight loss obstacles and reducing your risk for weight related illnesses like hypertension. Prolonged periods of time driving to and from work present a mostly unavoidable form of sedentary behavior.
There are many health risks associated with sedentary behavior that include a higher mortality rate for those who spend the most time sitting. This is one of the reasons exercise and a physically active lifestyle must be part of a healthy weight loss plan.
Overcome Your Commute
There are other ways that you can overcome that relentless fatigue you feel after spending a long day sitting at work and more time sitting in your car. Of course you will need to do your best to push and motivate yourself to exercise even when you don’t feel like pulling on sweats and pumping iron.
If moving closer to your work isn’t feasible-for any reason—then you have to be more proactive about what you can do. Of course, moving is a great way to get more free time into your life, which means you can put a greater emphasis on your weight loss efforts. A shorter commute means that you can take time to whip up healthy meals, hit the gym or even go for an evening stroll after dinner.
Some of the things you can do to in lieu of moving include:
- Bike It: If your commute is lengthened due to congestion not mileage, dust off your bike and strap on your sneakers and ride your bike. Bicycling burns calories—654 per hour of moderate cycling—which can help you create a calorie deficit, get more energy and improve your mood all day long.
- Walk: You may not be able to walk to work, if you can DO IT, but that doesn’t mean you can get more strides into your day. After your long commute to work, take the stairs instead of the elevator and walk to lunch or go for a brisk walk on your lunch break.
- Get Healthy: One of the most important factors in weight loss or weight gain is healthy food choices. Instead of munching on fast food and sugary pastry treats while you sit in traffic, pack healthy snacks like raw nuts, apricots and raspberries. This can help you reduce your calorie intake which means you can burn more as you get moving more regularly.
- Public Transportation: Even with public transportation you might still have a long commute, but you can burn a few additional calories by walking to and from the bus/subway stop every day. You’ll spend more time standing and walking, and less time sitting and inhaling high calorie treats.
Although this study looked at commuters in Texas, the problem can be much worse for those in larger, congested cities like New York, Los Angeles and California. Longer commute times are inevitable for many people who can no longer afford to live in close proximity to where they work.
You can, however, do things so that your commute does not interfere with your ability to lose weight and stay healthy. Finding ways to stay active when you can will help you combat the long periods of time you’re stuck in your car. Adopt and stick to a healthy diet—even in the car—and burn calories when and wherever you can.
The longer you let your commute stand in your way to weight loss, the more difficult it will be to change and reverse health problems.