According to Time Inc. Network, the average American spends 25.5 minutes driving to work each way, for a total of about 51 minutes a day. That comes to more than 200 hours a year dealing with traffic delays, over-caffeinated radio hosts, and highly aggressive drivers. All that time scrunched into a car is bound to take its toll on anyone, but can your commute be costing you more than just 51 minutes of unnecessary stress? Studies have revealed that your drive to work may actually be detrimental to your health. Keep reading to learn more!
1. Your blood sugar rises. A study published in The American Journal of Preventative Medicine showed that driving more than 10 miles to and from work every day was associated with higher blood sugar, which can lead to pre-diabetes and diabetes.
2. Your cholesterol is higher. The same study also discovered that commuting can contribute to high cholesterol. If high cholesterol levels go unchecked, we put ourselves at risk for heart disease, so keep an eye out for this one!
3. Your risk of depression increases. We’re not just talking about that surge of anger you experience when someone cuts you off. Studies have revealed that people with longer commutes — especially around 60 to 90 minutes — experience strong feelings of depression and isolation.
4. You have greater anxiety. You’re already late for work, but your radio has just informed you of an accident that has closed off part of the highway. Do you take a deep breath and just go with it? Probably not. There’s bound to be some choice words and pounding of the fists. Try listening to an audio book or your favorite playlist to lower those stress levels.
5. Your happiness declines. A report written by the UK’s Office of National Statistics claims that commuters have lower life satisfaction and a decreased sense that their activities are worthwhile. They become more anxious and miserable than non-commuters. Even people who bike or walk to work experience dips in their happiness, if they are en route long enough! Click here to learn about 5 ways to get happy today!
6. Your blood pressure spikes. Rush hour brings out the worst in everyone, sometimes in ways that we wouldn’t anticipate! The stress of commuting can actually make our blood pressure spike temporarily. For those of you who have a longer commute, this spike could wind up being permanent, which could put you at risk for dangerous conditions like heart disease and stroke.
7. Your cardiovascular fitness decreases. Obviously, the longer your commute, the less time you are going to have to work out. A lot of people are just too tired at the end of the day, after spending an hour lodged in traffic, to hit the gym. Eventually, this lapse in physical fitness can lead to weight gain and even obesity, if it goes unchecked. If you know you are going to be too exhausted at the end of the day, try going for a brisk walk during your lunch hour!
8. Your sleep suffers. One study demonstrated that people who commuted 45 minutes or more to work every day reported decreased sleep quality and more exhaustion than those who had shorter commutes. Click here to learn why sleep is so important!
9. You develop back and neck pain. You probably aren’t super concerned about your posture when you’ve been stuck in your car for the past hour, but unfortunately all that slouching takes its toll. Our backs and necks are especially at risk, so make sure you are working to maintain good posture, even when you are stuck in traffic!
10. You’re exposed to more pollution. Especially if you live in or near a big city, pollution becomes a real health risk for commuters. One study estimates that about half of our exposure to pollution occurs while commuting to work! Yikes!
>> Read more: Air Pollution’s Impact on Your Skin