Time Spent Behind the Wheel May Increase Heart Health Risks

Longer commutes leading to more time spent in a vehicle are associated with less time spent exercising and less cardiovascular fitness, a new study finds. (Image: Tim McCaig/iStockphoto.com)

The long and winding road may be hazardous to one’s health. New research findings appearing today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggest that longer commuting distances are associated with less physical activity and less cardiorespiratory fitness, as well as an increased risk of high blood pressure.

The findings are based on a study of 4297 adults who had a comprehensive medical examination between 2000 and 2007 and who lived and worked within 12 Texas counties surrounding Dallas and Fort Worth. Those who commuted more than 15 miles to work were less likely to meet recommendations for moderate to vigorous physical activity and had a higher likelihood of obesity when compared with those traveling shorter distances. Commuting distances greater than 10 miles were associated with high blood pressure.

“This study yields new information about biological outcomes and commuting distance, an understudied contributor to sedentary behavior that is prevalent among employed adults,” said lead investigator Christine M. Hoehner, PhD, MSPH, Washington University in St Louis, in a release. The researchers speculated that the longer commutes may be replacing the time available for participation in physical activity and that daily commuting is a source of chronic stress that has been associated with physiologic consequences, including high blood pressure.

The authors also said that those with long commutes are more likely to live in suburban neighborhoods, many of which may discourage physical activity because they lack sidewalks.

The number of US residents who travel to work has increased substantially in recent decades and the distances they commute have also increased. The researchers noted that between 1960 and 2000, the number of US workers commuting by private vehicle increased from 41.4 million to 112.7 million. Also, the average commuting distances and time expended by workers traveling by private vehicle have increased from 8.9 miles and 17.6 minutes in 1983 to 12.1 miles and 22.5 minutes in 2001.

Categories: Cardiovascular System, Exercise, Hypertension