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Air Quality

Published on January 30th, 2017 | by Cynthia Shahan

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Commuting & Well-Being: Driving Is Taking More Than Time From Your Life

January 30th, 2017 by  


Is driving taking more than your time from your life? Is it also a physically and emotionally taxing chore? Could commuting instead be an activity in your day that positively affects your well-being?

Our health often has a lot to do with the way we commute. The quality of our time, our physiological circulation, and our longevity are affected by how we commute. Bicycling, walking, and transit have been shown to offer a lot more in that regard.

Of course, the circulation systems of our planet are also important. This video focuses on the circulation of the planet’s carbon footprint, via NASA:

Planetary circulation is one concern. Physiological circulation is another concern. Bicycling and walking instead of driving help both.

Consider what lack of movement (on a daily basis) while commuting means for your health. Sitting in traffic limits circulation and affects one’s health through stasis — constriction.

A recent study published in The American Journal of Preventative Medicine has more on this subject, and concludes: “Commuting distance was adversely associated with physical activity, CRF, adiposity, and indicators of metabolic risk.”

Bicycling for transportation is one solution. Every time I visit NYC, the adept flow of bicyclists captures my attention. In the meantime, I note the snail’s pace of the car I am in. Weaving in and out of traffic, the bicyclists look so vital. As it turns out, The New York Times has a great article titled “Cycle of Fear” on this subject.

The article offers a beautiful image of bicycling in the heart of NYC. Tim Krieder is quoted as postulating, “I’m convinced these are the conditions in which we evolved to thrive: under moderate threat of death at all times, brain and body fully integrated, senses on high alert, completely engaged with our environment. It is, if not how we’re happiest — we’re probably happiest in a hot tub with a martini and a very good naked friend — how we are most fully and electrically alive.”

Another solution is to walk more and take the metro for longer trips. Walking brings out a vibrancy that one lacks from sitting too much of a day.

The University of East Anglia in 2014 confirmed that “walking or cycling to work is better for people’s mental health than driving to work.” The research was conducted by health economists at the University of East Anglia and the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR).

The report explained that people who stopped driving and started walking or cycling to work benefited from improved well-being, revealing that, “in particular, active commuters felt better able to concentrate and were less under strain than if they traveled by car.”

Circulation to the brain supports brain balance. The University of East Anglia and CEDAR study continues: “Experts also found that traveling on public transport is better for people’s psychological well-being than driving.”

Lead researcher Adam Martin, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said:

“One surprising finding was that commuters reported feeling better when traveling by public transport, compared to driving. You might think that things like disruption to services or crowds of commuters might have been a cause of considerable stress. But as buses or trains also give people time to relax, read, socialize, and there is usually an associated walk to the bus stop or railway station, it appears to cheer people up.”

What if we do shift away from our singular passenger journey in a space-eating vehicle? What is going to take place in our lungs? Another study — “Do the Health Benefits of Cycling Outweigh the Risks?” — considers just that. It comes from the University of Utrecht’s Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences.

The comprehensive evaluation and analysis considered various health and well-being effects from bicycling. “In the quantitative comparison between car driving and cycling, we considered air pollution, traffic accidents, and physical activity as main exposures. We summarize the relevant evidence of health effects related to air pollution, traffic accidents, and physical activity separately.”

The conclusions: “On average, the estimated health benefits of cycling were substantially larger than the risks relative to car driving for individuals shifting their mode of transport.”

Ideally, as electric vehicles continue to improve air quality, well-being will improve even more.

Even so, commuting outside of a one-person vehicle offers interactions and relationships that broaden one’s day.

Another study — “Type of Commute, Behavioral Aftereffects, and Cardiovascular Activity a Field Experiment” — finds that Americans have a love-hate relationship with driving. I’ll admit it, this sounds correct. It is certainly more love in an all-electric car with zero emissions. Still, I do not feel as vital and involved driving as I do walking more and taking transit. At the end of the day, I calm a bit and reap other benefits from improved circulation when I walk more. Driving, I also miss the faces that I watch, the gaits that I follow, and the music that I hear in the subways of NYC. There is the natural choreography of urbanites on their way to or from their workplaces, homes, the store, community events, or elsewhere.

Yet another study — “Relationships Between Commuting and Social Capital Among Men and Women in Southern Sweden” — evaluates and explores a “commuter’s strain” model, which emphasizes time spent in transit as a psychological or physiological burden over and above the workday. It also examines such things as how “active and public transport can enhance the livability of a city and create an environment that is better suited to social activities (Vuchic, 1999).”

The American Journal of Preventative Medicine links another issue with too much time spent in cars: obesity.

Balance of the mind & body is linked to a natural state of movement that offers relief from physiological and psychological stress. Bicycling and walking offer this, while also offering time to reflect and enjoy life.

Related Stories:

Images: Citi Bike + Blaze from Citi Bike on VimeoMiami traffic jam on I-95 via Wikimedia Commons; “So I Can Go More Places” via APTA.





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About the Author

is a Mother, an Organic Farmer, Licensed Acupuncturist, Anthropology Studies, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings who have lit the way for me for decades.



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