The average commuter in America travels 25 minutes in each direction, alone in a car, according to the latest census data . But that's not the only way to get around. Growing numbers of people are biking, taking public transit and car-pooling, proving that these methods are more than passing fads or in direct response to economic conditions.
And while alternative commutes are certainly easier on the environment (and often the wallet), there are ways to make any commute healthier. Read on for some healthier commutes, thanks to public health research:
Ride A Bike
Arriving to the office via bicycle is an increasingly common commute. In fact, Vancouver city officials recently reported that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/09/23/bike-commuting-up-in-metro-vancouver_n_1908221.html?1348495698">cycling has taken off <em>so</em> much</a> that the municipal bus service, which relies on funding from commuters' gas taxes, is suffering. On the other side of the continent, the New York City government <a href="http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/08/number-of-bicyclists-keeps-climbing-city-says/?ref=bicycle">reports that cyclists are up</a> to 18,846 a day in 2011 -- compared to 5,000 in 2001. That's a good thing for heart health: a study in the <em>Journal of the American College of Cardiology</em> found that men and women who had an active commute <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/yourlife/fitness/2010-10-02-manual-labor_N.htm">were less likely to suffer heart failure in an 18-year follow up. </a> And for additional good news, an analysis of bike commuting's health benefits versus the danger of accidents found that the perks <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2010-07-09-bike-cycling-city_N.htm">were nine times greater than the drawbacks</a>.
Take The Bus
Sure, taking the bus isn't, in and of itself, the best exercise. But those who ride the bus tend to <em>also</em> walk more than their counterparts in cars -- to and from the bus stop, for example, and on shorter errands. This week, a U.K. study corroborated this when it found that giving older adults bus passes increased their overall physical activity.
Listen To Classical Music
A commute can provide plenty of stress, before you even factor in the workday's anxieties. But you can do something about that. A <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-16044487">survey of drivers who listen to music</a> found that those who tuned in to classical or pop music were less likely to feel "road rage" than those who opted for rock or metal. And even the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety <a href="http://www.aaafoundation.org/resources/index.cfm?button=agdrtext">recommends listening to classical music</a> to avoid stressful (or rageful!) driving conditions.
Move Within Five Miles Of Work
Long commutes are bad for you. There's no two ways about it. One study of three mid-sized cities in Texas found that as commute length increased, <a href="http://healthland.time.com/2012/05/08/long-commute-your-heart-and-waistline-may-suffer-for-it/#ixzz27W0vTwDP">so did blood pressure levels and waistline sizes</a>. By contrast, those with shorter commutes (five miles or under) were much more likely to get the government recommended 30 minutes of moderate to high physical activity, three times per week.
Add 30 Minutes Of Walking
Many people work or live in places that don't support a pedestrian culture. If there's no way to walk to the office, then drive to a location that is accessible to work on foot. Those who had "high" levels of commute activity (thirty minutes or more) <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/yourlife/fitness/2010-10-02-manual-labor_N.htm">were at reduced risk of heart failure</a>.