It doesn’t take a genius to work out that walking to work is generally a healthier option than driving there, but did you know that the way you commute could be seriously damaging your health?
With recent news reports suggesting cycling to work could significantly reduce the risk of cancer we decided to take a look at the way we Brits commute and we were shocked at just how hazardous our most common and popular journey options could be to our general health and well-being.
- Car- Generally considered the most common and popular mode of work travel in the UK. It has been at the forefront of many a government-sponsored campaign to get us Brits out of our 4 wheeled friends and on to foot. In the UK more than 3 million of us spend over 2 hours a day in our cars commuting to and from work, and shockingly another million of us spend over 3 or more hours a day. All this on top of other general motoring like shopping, school runs and weekend driving. Needless to say not only is this cardio-lacking route-buster doing nothing for your waistline it also contributes hugely to stress levels, anxiety and even depression, after all, you wouldn’t choose to start and end your long working day cooped up in a tin can, arguing with strangers, would you? Many of us, however, do just this, without ever seriously exploring other options. The car is seen as convenient and we Brits tend to value that over health a little too often. Alongside the obvious there are other hidden dangers on the standard drive to work, a surprising 31% of us admit to still using our phones at the wheel. While this has been illegal in the UK since 2003 and now incurs a standard £200 fine plus 6 points on your licence many still choose to make and take those apparently imperative work-calls behind the wheel regardless of the fact that 1 in 4 road traffic accidents now involve a driver on a mobile phone, many of them ending in fatalities.
- Train- Unlike many of our European counterparts who love train transportation as the main form of work travel, us Brits commute via train and tram generally only in larger cities. Not surprisingly London takes the crown for the highest number with a whopping 1.34 billion commuters a year on its trains, with Waterloo as its busiest station with some 95 million using the station annually. These high numbers coupled with our trains general crappy reputation when it comes to timekeeping, delays and lack of seats means the whole thing can really put a damper on your day before you’ve even reached your desk. The average commute via rail is 54 minutes so pretty much on par with driving but this increases to 72mins in London. Like driving, trains and public transport can affect our state of mind and happiness, it’s said that our stress levels increase and happiness decreases with every mile we commute via train, this has a lot to do with the lack of control we have in our timekeeping, isolation and boredom. Trains do however have their own plus points if you’re lucky enough to bag a seat you are free to catch up on emails and plan your day before you even reach the office or why not use the time to discover a new novel or read the paper?
- Walking- Now while we can appreciate a leisurely stroll to the office just isn’t practical to some of you, walking to work does have its obvious health benefits. Stress-free, ‘me time’, free from the constraints of the car and not reliant on the time-keeping of public transportation, a walk can be both beneficial to mind as well as body. A brisk morning walk can not only burn calories but act as a kick-start to our metabolism and for all too many it can be the only cardio we get in a day behind a desk. Walking is great for head-clearing, planning your day and prepping yourself for what lies ahead. True, with good old British weather usually against us it might not seem practical and appealing all year round but its massive health benefits really do speak for themselves. Why not ask around the office and find a group of you that could walk to work together? While walking all the way to the office might not be practical, 31% of us combine walking with car or rail so those extra steps could be the perfect time to get to know your colleagues.
- Cycling- Like walking, cycling might not be practical for everyone but it does shave time off a walk to work and it also gets the old heart pumping faster meaning you start the day on an endorphin-high and a few hundred calories lighter. Many offices and corporations now offer bike storage facilities as standard and our cities have dedicated cycle lanes to keep you safer on the roads too. With recent headlines boasting ‘cycling to work can almost half the risk of cancer and heart disease’ it’s definitely an attractive option if the distance isn’t a no-go but cycling isn’t free from negative press either. In recent years cyclists have reported a sharp increase in aggression and even harm from motorists and fellow road users, meaning many keen enthusiasts have resorted to installing body or helmet cameras for safety. That said the risk of an accident resulting in a fatality is still only around 100 per year so extremely low in comparison to general motoring incidents.
So now you’ve seen the stats why not take a long look at your own commute and that of your colleagues too. Maybe you could set up an office commute group and walk or cycle with others who live in similar directions? Maybe you could even do an incentive for a cheeky health boost and work towards those beach-bod dreams together? After all, it’s only going to save you money and improve your health, so what are you waiting for?… On ya bike.