Lifestyle & Belief

Commute study: Long drives to work may be bad for your health


Traffic converges on highway I-495 South in McLean, Va., on Nov. 23, 2011, one of the busiest travel days of the year.


Win McNamee

Sick of your long commute? It may actually be making you sick, a new study suggests.

According to Washington University researchers, people with long drives to the office -- particularly more than 10 miles -- are more likely to have high blood pressure, an oversized waistline and other health problems that increase your risk for chronic diseases, ABC News reported.

More from GlobalPost: Traffic jams so bad they hurt

"It could just be a function of having less discretionary time to be physically active," lead study author Christine Hoehner told ABC News. "Or it could be related to people burning fewer calories because they're sitting longer."

Researchers at the university in St. Louis studied nearly 4,300 drivers in three car-centric Texas cities for the study published Tuesday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

More from GlobalPost: Are Indians in Canada aborting female fetuses?

They estimated the distance of each participant’s daily commute, and also collected data on health measures such as exercise habits, body mass index, waist size, cholesterol and blood pressure, Time magazine reported.

Fifty one percent of people in the study traveled 10 miles or less to work each way, and 18 percent traveled more than 20 miles. The average commute was 12 miles, according to Reuters.

Hoehner suggested the long commutes and more time spent behind the wheel reduce how time much people exercise.

"For folks that live a long way from work they need to find ways to build physical activity into their day," she told Reuters. "Driving to work has become a part of American life. There is no reason why taking walks during work breaks can't become a part of American life too."