Your Commute is Making You Ill: Here’s Help
Your commute to work may be playing havoc with your health. A series of studies in the past few years has shown that commuters who live more than 10 miles from work are more likely to have high blood pressure, and people who travel more than 15 miles are more likely to be obese. Commuters also suffer from high cholesterol, stress, back and neck pain and insomnia.
After all, the more time we spend commuting, the less time we spend on exercising and the more we pick up a meal on the way home instead of cooking. And the longer the commute, the greater our stress. In a 2004 study, researchers Richard Wener and Gary Evans discovered that the longer the journey, the higher the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in commuters’ saliva. And the longer the commute, the more difficult the task of proofreading assigned to commuters at the end of their journey.
If rush hour traffic has you tensing up, make a conscious effort to relax. Take five deep breaths from the diaphragm. Roll your shoulders, loosen your grip and spread out your fingers. If you’re like most people, you hold your tension in your neck and back, so stretch your neck from side to side when you’re safely stopped.
You can counteract some of the stress by adjusting your attitude. Use the time commuting for pleasurable experiences. Play your favorite tunes and sing, or listen to books on audio. Listen to a work-related seminar. If you’re using public transportation, practice a sensory meditation by closing your eyes and relaxing into the gentle, rocking motion of the vehicle.
You could also request more flexible working options. Find out whether you can work from home some days of the week, or perhaps make arrangements to come to work before or after peak rush hour.
If you’re worried about weight, consider public transportation: men and women who drove to work weighed about 6.6 and 5.5 pounds more, respectively, than their peers who walked, cycled, or took trains or buses, according to a 2014 study in The BMJ.
Of course, commuting also exposes you to more pollution. Among Los Angeles residents, as much as half of their exposure to harmful air pollution occurred while driving, according to a study conducted in 2007. A Dutch study in 2010 pointed out that cycling to work also increases exposure to pollution – but the cardiovascular benefits outweigh the risks by at least nine times.
A third of people with commutes of more than 90 minutes say they deal with ongoing neck and back pain, according to a 2010 Gallup poll. But making an effort to sit up straight—with a lumbar support behind your lower back, and your head evenly over your shoulders—can help you reverse bad habits.
Chiropractors are experts when it comes to relieving neck and back pain. So consider a visit to Dr. Cynthia Boyd at Symmetry Health Center in Oakland and Alameda. Dr. Boyd and her team are experts in Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP), a method of correcting spinal misalignments – vertebrae that have shifted out of position – by remodeling and realigning the spine to restore normal nerve flow.
The team at Symmetry Health Center is among only a handful of Oakland, Alameda and East Bay chiropractors trained in CBP, the most research- and results-oriented corrective chiropractic technique.
Take advantage of our no-charge consultation to determine whether you or a loved one is a candidate for care at Symmetry Health Center. Call 510-769-0125 for our location in Alameda and 510-654-2207 to reach our Oakland/Berkeley office.