Don’t Let Your Commute Kill You


Researchers from Umea University in Sweden recently published a study that found workers who commute 45 minutes or more are 40% more likely to divorce than couples with a shorter distance to work. The risk of separation is highest within the first five years of the daily long distance trekking.

The lead author of the study, Erika Sandow, told Swedish news agency The Local, “One of the long-term risks with commuting is that it can sustain gender-based stereotypes both at home and in the labour market.” Because the majority of the long-distance commuters are men, the women usually feel more isolated or overburdened with household duties and the children. Commuting women usually feel more stressed than men as a result of trudging many miles to work.

The study was based on statistical data from two million Swedish households between 1995 and 2000.

The results run parallel to other studies done over the past few years that found long commutes can also cause obesity, as dashing to work means less time preparing healthy food or exercising. It can also cause back and neck pains or depression due to feeling isolated.

As families grow, parents must move farther away from office districts for that extra bedroom or bigger yard. It would be ideal for the breadwinner to find a sufficient job in a smaller company near the home-base but if that is unlikely, it is time to figure out how to make your commute less unpleasant or more productive.

  • Read for Business or Pleasure. For public transportation commuters or carpoolers, this would be an ideal time to catch up on reading. You can read all those reports piling up on your desk, read The Wall Street Journal to have a full grip on the markets or go over PowerPoint slides for the next meeting. Another great idea is to reflect on ways you can improve at your job and write them in a career journal. You can write down your goals for the day.

Read a novel if you need a break from work, be it a beach read or a criminal mystery. A fictional genre can help you escape from that crowded subway car. Or career self-help books can keep you motivated before starting your day at the office. Kindles, iPads and Nooks make this more convenient.

  • Audio Books aren’t just for grandparents anymore. The emergence of Podcasts made the idea of audio books cool again. Because it is easy listening, use it as an opportunity to explore new subjects to diversify your areas of expertise. You can download free audio books from LibriVox or learn a new language. Rosetta Stone is the best but if you are on a budget, Pimsleur also works.
  • Catch-up and Correspondence. Keeping in mind safe driving laws, proper Bluetooth gear and basic subway/bus etiquette (don’t talk too loud!) a commute can be used to keep healthy communications with clients or old college buddies. If you owe anyone a phone date, then you could use this time to catch up. It is a great time to reconnect with family and friends, especially if you work long hours.
  • Exercise and Stretch. Every week empty your work bag of unnecessary weight to alleviate any back or neck pains. Change into comfortable shoes. If all the seats are taken, find joy is standing by doing basic stretches. I practice basic martial arts in spacey subway cars. Instead of holding onto the poles, I use my own leg muscles to keep balance as the train turns and brakes at each stop. I think of it as surfing. Here is a list of other exercises you can try out during your commute.
  • Healthy Breathing. If you drive to work, practice deep breathing exercises. Many of us need to supply bodies with extra oxygen to prepare ourselves for or decompress from the 9-to-5 grind. It is reenergizing and may make you more cheerful in the office or at home. Read Dr. Weil’s guide to deep breathing exercises.

The basic point is to change your mentality towards your commute. Instead of excessively dreading the ride to and from work, think of your commute as “Me Time.” These basic tips can expand into larger ideas, such as brainstorming on a business start-up, and your lifelong dreams of working from home can come true.

By Tanya, Wall Street Services Reporter