Are long car commutes killing us?

A new study finds that people with long car commutes are less healthy.

Not only do long car commutes waste time and gas, and test your patience, but a new study suggests they're linked with poor health.

The research, published in the forthcoming edition of the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, provides "important evidence about potential mediators in the relationship between time spent driving and cardiovascular mortality," according to the study.

Researchers studied the health of more than 4,000 car commuters in the Dallas and Austin, Texas metropolitan areas, measured the distance they commute by car to work, and looked at the associations between commuting distance from home to work with cardiorespiratory fitness, physical activity levels, and metabolic risk indicators (blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.).

The longer people drove, the study found, the less time they engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity. They also had greater body mass index, waist circumference, and blood pressure. Even when physical activity was adjusted for, there was still a strong association between long commutes and high blood pressure, and, to a lesser extent, waist circumference and BMI. More specifically, commuters travelling more than 15 miles to work were less likely to exercise (at moderate or vigorous levels) at the recommended rate. They were also more likely to be obese. Commuting distances of 10 miles or more were associated with high blood pressure.

Of course, these are associations, not necessarily causes. There are other similar forms of habitual sedentary behavior, like a job, that might also play a role in the less healthy numbers for long distance car commuters. But also, the built environment, in general, has an impact on people with a longer commute. As the report points out, "participants with long commutes were more likely to live in suburban neighborhoods, which often possess built environment features that are associated with physical inactivity and sedentary behavior."

With a built environment that's playing a role in our poor health, isn't it time to think more strategically about how we're building our cities and suburbs?

Read the full report here.

Photo: Flickr/takgoti

[h/t Science Daily]

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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