The daily commute has often been labelled as a necessary evil. It’s stressful, expensive, and exhausting — but inevitable.
USA Today has reported that the average American spends 51 minutes a day getting to and from work. That adds up to 204 hours a year spent commuting, an alarming statistic to scientists, who have found that commuting can have a severe, negative impact on your mental and physical health.
Rather than waste those hours sitting on a subway, I decided to make the most of them.
When I moved to New York’s Manhattan last month to start a new job, I chose to turn the necessary evil into a mini workout and money-saver by walking the 1.6 miles to my office every weekday. I spend 30 to 35 minutes walking each way, which is double the time public transportation would take but well worth the earlier wake-up call.
The daily 3.2-mile round trip burns about 250 calories, amounting to roughly 5,000 extra calories per month and 60,000 per year.
On top of the built-in exercise, I cut $US112 — the price of New York’s monthly metro pass — from my expenses; and because the commute doubles as my exercise, I save an additional $US50 that would go towards a gym membership.
In addition to the physical and economic benefits, my active commute is better for my well-being, according to research conducted by health economists at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Center for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR).
After analysing 18 years of data on nearly 18,000 commuters, the researchers found “that the longer people spend commuting in cars, the worse their psychological well-being. And correspondingly, people feel better when they have a longer walk to work.”
One reason walking to work may improve well-being is that it provides a feeling of control over your schedule. “People who walk or cycle to work are less likely to get held up in traffic than when travelling by car,” lead researcher Adam Martin tells Business Insider, “so they don’t have the stress of being unsure of when they will get to work.”
While a longer walk to work is ideal, a short walk is better than no walk. Martin explains that “a short routine walk to or from the railway station could also be beneficial.”
If your office is not within walking distance, biking is just as helpful. Martin’s research determined that cycling and walking have the same positive affect on mental health.
Otherwise, consider making time for a quick morning workout to clear your mind and start your day on a positive note, or sneak in a walk during your lunch hour, which scientists says can improve your mood and boost your productivity.
Whatever your method, find a way to stay active before, after, or within your hectic workday. It keeps the mind sharp and the body happy.
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