Healthy Commuting

November 12, 2012

The Health Effects on Employees That Commute and How to Make Healthier Commuting Decisions

Every business day, the average American commuter spends at least 25 minutes in their car, each way. Instead of spending time with their family, exercising or preparing a healthy meal, we are spending time sitting and slouched over a steering wheel. Unless your commute is a soothing, traffic-free beachside drive, rising stress levels from an extended commute can increase your risk for high blood pressure andweight gain.

To help combat these possible unhealthy effects, we gathered our best tips to counteract the detrimental results of spending extended hours in your vehicle each day.

Avoid mindless eating
Have you ever noticed how quickly a bag of potato chips can disappear when snacking during a car ride? Instead of taking a quick stop in a drive-thru, make the conscious decision to pack healthy, well-portioned snacks for your commute. Nuts, fat-free popcorn, freeze-dried peas, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, celery sticks and carrots are easy to munch while driving without causing a distraction. A piece of fruit is also a better choice than any greasy alternatives. Also, make sure to drink plenty of water - you may not realize you are becoming dehydrated in a car and being properly hydrated can stave off hunger cravings.

Deep breathing
At regular intervals during your commute take a moment to inhale deeply, hold the breath in for a few moments and then slowly breathe out over the course of eight seconds. Measured breathing can help lower your blood pressure and relieve stress.

Car exercises
These suggestions should only be attempted when stopped, not while your vehicle is moving. Anything that may distract you from safely reaching your destination should not be attempted under any circumstances.

Flex every muscle
Starting down at your toes, think about flexing every muscle in your body. Working your way up from the bottom, to your legs, abdominals and even your head, this will keep your muscles active and leave you feeling energized. Flex each muscle for three to five seconds before releasing.

Work your glutes
Have you ever felt numbness or soreness in your posterior from sitting too long? Try alternately squeezing each side for three to five seconds, 10 times on each side to relieve discomfort and improve tone. This may take practice initially to squeeze each side of the muscle separately.

Sit up straight
Adjust your mirrors and make the conscious effort to sit straight forward during your drive. Roll your shoulders back and hold your chin high to help improve your posture outside of the driver’s seat and alleviate back pain from hunching over your steering wheel or keyboard.

Toning your arms
Although you may have already done this out of frustration, grip the steering wheel at the “9” and “3” positions and try to push your arms towards each other for three to five seconds, as though you are trying to crush the wheel in on itself. Take a break and then try to pull the wheel apart by gripping at the same positions and pulling your arms out. This should be done while the vehicle is stopped.

Find a gym near work
If your business does not have a gym on-site – only about 20 percent of businesses do – try to choose a gym near your work rather than one near your home. Not only will you miss peak commuting times by visiting before or after your 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. business hours, but you can also go during your lunch break. Exercise is shown to increase energy and leave you ready to be productive for the rest of your workday.

Make the extra effort
Unless you are required to park in a specific spot, try parking a little further away from the office door. This allows you to stretch your legs before sitting down at your desk or get your blood flowing before hitting the road. If you have the choice of stairs or the elevator, always take the stairs. Choose a faster pace than the day before and soon you will be flying up the flights and contributing to your cardiovascular exercise for the day.

Empower yourself and take these simple tips to improve the health of your commute this week.

Written by Leeann Garms