Moving to a more tranquil setting in suburbia or countryside may kill you, if it adds time to your commute. According to a study just published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, longer commute times are linked to high blood pressure, increased weight and decreased fitness. The worst effects kick in when the distance exceeds 15 miles.
Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri chose the highly congested Dallas-Fort Worth area for their study. They looked at the records of nearly 4,300 adults who had a complete medical examination and a treadmill test between 2000 and 2007. After geocoding their work and home addresses, the researchers compared commuting time and health data.
The study’s lead author, Christine Hoehner, said:
Part of it is that people with longer commutes aren’t exercising as much. But there could be other factors like they’re eating (fast food) while driving or they’re getting less sleep because they donít have as much discretionary time.
Other studies have drawn similar links between commuting and health. John Pucher of Rutgers University led a research team that looked at active travel and found that people who commute on foot or by bicycle were less at risk for diabetes and obesity.
Lawrence Frank, Bombardier Chair in Sustainable Urban Transportation Systems at the University of British Columbia, has been studying the interplay between built environments and health for 20 years. In numerous studies, he has found that people in mixed-use environments are healthiest. Being close enough to walk or bike to shops, services, work and home increases physical activity and improves health.
Cities in the U.S. and Canada were built around the benefits and needs of our vehicles. As we redesign neighborhoods with the needs of people in mind, we may see significant impacts on our health and wellbeing.
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