Expert Commentary

Commuting distance, cardiorespiratory fitness and metabolic risk

2012 study on the relationship between commuting distance and health, including BMI, cholesterol, blood pressure and cardiorespiratory fıtness.

Traffic congestion (iStock)

Getting the right amount of rest is essential for health, but sometimes leisure can have its own risks. According to a 2012 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, under certain circumstances inactivity can have negative consequences.

The study, “Commuting Distance, Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Metabolic Risk,” followed nearly 4,300 Texas adults who commuted to work by car between 2000 and 2007. Participants were referred by their personal physicians, and those in poor health were excluded from the study. Data gathered included participants’ BMI, cholesterol, blood pressure and cardiorespiratory fıtness (CRF), as well as the distance they drove from home to work.

Findings included:

  • The longer participants’ drives, the less they exercised and the lower their cardiorespiratory fıtness, while BMI, waist circumference and blood pressure all increased. Analysis of the data suggested that the declines in CRF and physical activity explain a significant amount of variation in BMI and waist circumference.
  • A one-way commute of 10 miles or more was associated with higher odds of elevated triglycerides and blood glucose levels and reduced HDL cholesterol.
  • Commuting 15 miles or more was associated with lower odds of meeting physical activity recommendations and higher odds of obesity.
  • Even when researchers adjusted for participants’ levels of physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness, both waist circumference and BMI increased with commuting distance.

“Daily commuting represents a source of chronic stress that has been correlated positively with physiologic consequences including high blood pressure, self-reported tension, fatigue, and other negative mental or physical health effects in some studies,” the researchers note. Other factors related to commuting distance that could impact health include “worse diet, poor sleep, depression, anxiety, or social isolation.”

Tags: cars, driving, commuting, congestion, stress

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