Entries in Commute (2)


Study: Long Commutes Drive Up Weight, Blood Pressure

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(ST. LOUIS) -- Is the morning commute grinding your gears?  Well, it might also be hurting your health.

People who drive long distances to work are more likely to be overweight than their non-commuting counterparts, according to a new study that links urban sprawl with expanding waistlines.

"It could just be a function of having less discretionary time to be physically active," said Christine Hoehner of Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., lead author of the study published Tuesday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.  "Or it could be related to people burning fewer calories because they're sitting longer."

Previous studies have tied time spent sitting to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and early death.

To tease out the health effects of the daily drive, Hoehner and colleagues studied the medical records of nearly 4,300 commuters in Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin, Texas.  They found that the more people drove, the less they exercised.

"I think the message for folks who live a long way from work and have a desk job is to find ways to build physical activity into their day," said Hoehner, adding that workplaces should "allow and even encourage physical activity breaks."

Hoehner said diet could also be to blame, theorizing that commuters have less time to cook and more time to snack in the car.

Weight wasn't the only thing that increased with driving distance: The longer the drive, the higher the driver's blood pressure.

"Previous studies have pointed to daily exposure to traffic, particularly the unpredictability of traffic, as being a source of chronic stress," said Hoehner, describing how frustration can send blood pressure through the roof.  "Our study is the first to show that long commutes are associated with higher weight, lower fitness levels and higher blood pressure, all of which are strong predictors of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers."

Roughly 28.5 million American adults travel 30 minutes or more to work, according to 2010 U.S. census data.

"Driving to work has become a part of American life.  But there's no reason that taking walks during work breaks can't become part of daily life, too," said Hoehner.´╗┐

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Long Commutes Can Drive Up Divorce Risk

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Compared to their locally employed counterparts, commuting couples face a rocky marital road, Swedish researchers report. According to a study of 2 million Swedes, couples in which one person commutes 45 minutes or longer are 40 percent more likely to divorce.

"To be able to commute to work can be a positive thing because it means you don't have to uproot your family with every career move, but it can also be a strain on your relationship," Erika Sandow, a social geographer at Umea University and lead author of the study, told the Swedish publication The Local.

The decision to commute can stem from career aspirations, economic woes, and ties to social support in a particular place, according to Susan Heitler, a Denver psychologist and marriage counselor. And on top of life's other pressures, it can leave both partners feeling overworked and underappreciated.

"It's like a perfect storm. The couple can't realize that the problem is the commute, not the other person," Heitler said, explaining the tendency to personalize problems and get defensive. "Once you get angry, upset and frustrated, it's easy to start pointing fingers."

At a time when relocation or landing a new job are unrealistic options for many Americans, less dramatic, more nuanced solutions can make it easier to find middle ground, Heitler said.

"You need to drop down to explore the underlying concerns on both sides," she said.

Dedicating one night of the week to the commuter, or spending a little cash on help around the house can relieve some of the stress for both partners, Heitler said. And having an open, honest conversation about the pros and cons of the commute is key.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐

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