If you think about it, it’s actually pretty intuitive. If you sit in a car for a long time it’s bad for your health. I always thought so. I mean, if it’s bad to sit in an office chair for too long, the same should apply if you sit behind a wheel for too long. Am I right?
But, until recently, the impact of prolonged driving were not totally understood. A new study has found that greater commuting distances are associated with decreased cardiorespiratory fitness, increased weight, and other indicators of metabolic risk.
The study’s findings will be published in the June issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
"This study yields new information about biological outcomes and commuting distance, an understudied contributor to sedentary behavior that is prevalent among employed adults," explains lead investigator Christine M. Hoehner, PhD, MSPH, Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. "It provides important evidence about potential mediators in the relationship between time spent driving and cardiovascular mortality."
The researchers studied 4,297 individuals who lived and worked in 11 counties in Texas metropolitan areas.
Commuting distances were calculated, and various health indicators, such as, among others, HDL cholesterol, fasting plasma glucose, blood pressure were monitored. Also, the researchers assessed participation in moderate to vigorous physical activity over the previous 3 months.
The study found that people who drove longer distances to work, reported less frequent participation in moderate to vigorous exercise, and had greater BMI, waist circumference, and blood pressure.
In particular, those who commuted more than 15 miles to work were less likely to meet recommendations for moderate to vigorous exercise, and had a higher likelihood of obesity. Commuting distances greater than 10 miles were associated with high blood pressure.
However, commuting by automobile represents only one of many forms of sedentary behavior, and this study did not examine other important contributors such as occupational sitting and TV viewing. Dr. Hoehner notes that future studies are needed to assess sedentary time across multiple behaviors to identify the independent effects of commuting on health.
Even though this study is preliminary the clear message is that we should definitely learn to use less our cars. And this becomes even more true with gas prices skyrocketing.
Active travel is clearly the way to go. Walking, cycling or even skateboarding are some of the best ways to move around instead of driving. They’re cheaper, healthier and with zero-impact on the environment: a win-win-win situation.
In NYC cars are not even an option, but in other parts of the US they tend to be overused.
There’s really no need to sit in car to get your money at the ATM, to eat your dinner, or to go to theater just three blocks away from home. All these activities (and many more) can be easily done in healthier and cheaper ways.
It is just a matter of habit. One that you can easily break.
The Iron You