According to the Census Bureau, the average commute time in New Jersey is 30 minutes, which is 20 percent longer than the national average. Portions of Monmouth and Middlesex Counties reported average commute times of more than 45 minutes.
Long commutes do more than take up an hour or more of our day and cause aggravation. They can be physically and mentally painful.
Last summer, I wrote a post that explained why sitting can be more damaging to the human body than smoking. The human body was designed to be in motion, not to sit on the couch or behind the wheel of a car.
When we sit for extended periods of time, the discs in the spine become compressed. You could have the most comfortable seat in the most expensive luxury car, but you’ll still get aches and pains in the back, neck, shoulders and hips when you spend too much time sitting in that seat.
Sitting also makes it difficult for the body to burn calories and convert bad cholesterol into good cholesterol. Then we get fat, which increases the risk of a number of chronic illnesses.
Of course, when we’re stuck in a car, we get stressed out by rush hour traffic, weekend traffic to and from the beach, accidents, bad weather, and people who drive like maniacs. We get a rush of adrenaline, but there’s no way to release that energy.
And we wonder why there’s so much road rage in New Jersey.
In a perfect world, we would walk to work like our ancestors did. That may be just a tad unrealistic today, but there are a few things you can do to make your commute less painful and less stressful.
Exercise your brain. There’s nothing wrong with listening to the news or your favorite music, but technology makes it possible to stimulate the brain in the car. Listen to a book or a podcast. Learn a language. Use this time to engage the mind in a positive way.
Stretch before you sit. We stretch before we exercise and use the body in the way it was designed. It makes even more sense to stretch our muscles when we’re about to do something that’s not exactly healthy, like sitting in a car for a couple of hours.
Eat a healthy breakfast. Bagels, pancakes, French toast, fried eggs and bacon, sugar-filled cereals and other “breakfast foods” don’t help. Fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and freshly squeezed juice will help you prepare your body for a long commute.
Get moving at work. The worst thing you can do after sitting behind the wheel for an hour is sit behind a desk for another four hours. Take the stairs. Park a few blocks from the office. Take a brisk walk a few times a day.
Heat those muscles. Heat is excellent for tired and stressed muscles. If you have heated seats in your car, use them. Bring a heating pad for your lower back. Take a hot shower in the morning and evening. And if you have a hot tub, use it!
These are the kinds of health issues I discuss during my free Wellness At Work health education seminars for businesses and organizations. For more information, please call (732) 222‑2219 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.