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Long commutes are not just frustrating – they also impact the waistlines of Americans.
The average American commutes over 50 minutes per day according to the U.S. Census Bureau. During this time, Americans are stressed out and sedentary, which can result in eating meals like breakfast or dinner in the car. Long commutes can introduce a number of unhealthy habits into the lifestyle of workers, even for people who try to manage their nutrition and exercise.
A recent study conducted on the medical records of 4,297 commuters in Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin, Texas found that the more people drove, the less they exercised. The researchers also found that people who had longer commutes also had lower cardiorespiratory fitness, and greater body mass index, waist circumference, and higher blood pressure.
Here is why a long daily commute can cause your waistline to balloon, followed by what you can do to stop it:
More time on the road equals less time practicing healthy habits.
There are only 24 hours in a day, and time spent on one activity inherently takes away time that could be spent on other activities. Healthy habits like grocery shopping for healthy food, meal preparation at home, and physical activity tend go by the wayside when long commutes extend the workday.
Commuting drives up demand for convenience foods.
Since spending more time in the car reduces time spent planning meals, convenience foods become a daily choice for many commuters. Foods like granola bars, fast food meals, packaged cereals, and bottled drinks become diet staples when people don;t have time to prepare fresh healthy food.
The stress of traffic can deregulate stress hormones.
Commuting is stressful, especially when you commute in a high traffic community like Los Angeles. Chronic stress can lead to the deregulation of the stress hormone cortisol. Prolonged periods of high cortisol levels can lead to muscle wasting, suppressed thyroid function, and increased abdominal fat storage.
What you can do about it:
Ask your boss if you can work from home one day per week.
The boom in digital technology over the past five years means that knowledge workers have access to all of their work tools on smartphones and laptops. Depending on the culture of the company you work for, you may be able to secure a telecommuting day as a benefit from your employer, especially if your company has not issued bonuses or raises in the past year due to economic factors.
Stash low calorie healthy snacks in your car.
Keep a cooler in your car and stash snacks like carrot and celery sticks, lean beef jerky or turkey jerky, plain greek yogurt, fruit, and hummus. Having healthy food near you in the car will make you less likely to stop for a fast food meal on the way home from work.
Listen to health podcasts in your car.
There’s nothing like a good old dose of self-imposed peer pressure to keep you in line. Try downloading and listening to some of these top podcasts in the health genre to keep you motivated to make healthy choices throughout your day:
Find a new job. We’re not kidding.
Your health is worth more than your job. Yes, we know that most of us aren’t in a financial position to just up and quit our jobs. But if your long daily commute is impacting your weight, your health, and your relationships, it may be time to reevaluate your priorities and start making moves toward a new position that doesn’t require such a long commute.
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