We hate to admit it, but of all the places you can get caught sitting for long periods of time--the couch, a plane or behind a computer--the car is probably the unhealthiest.
Commuters in crammed and crowded metropolitan areas like New York, Washington DC, Boston and Los Angeles with one-way commute times to the office of up to two hours know only too well that long commutes can take their toll on health and well being. But a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that people who live as little as 15 miles from their job also face serious health consequences.
According to the study, which focused on 4,200 commuters in two Texas cities--Dallas/Fort Worth and Austin--commuters with more than 15 miles each way to slog between home and work every day are experiencing higher than normal incidents of high-blood pressure, obesity and depression. Those ill effects, say the experts who conducted the study, are markers for higher incidence of diabetes and heart disease.
If you endure long commutes, "you are on your way to heart disease," Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told WebMd.com. "[When] you have an elevated blood pressure, an elevated BMI (body-mass-index), an elevated waist circumference; you're on your way to diabetes and high cholesterol," says Steinbaum. "This is a person that I say, 'Change your life now so you don't get sick later,'" Steinbaum says.
According to the researchers, the number of workers driving to work by private car more than doubled between 1960 and 2000, increasing from more than 41 million to nearly 113 million. The average distance traveled to work also has grown in recent years, from nearly nine miles in 1983 to more than 12 miles in 2001, the researchers said. That may not sound like much, but those are averages. Commuters in many cities surpass those averages by a lot.