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Is Commuting Bad For Your Health?

photo of a woman standing inside bus 808700

Since 1997 the average commute has risen to 30 minutes one way, adding an extra six minutes to our journeys.

  • One in seven workers in England spends two hours commuting to and from work.
  • 54% of people drive to work, but drivers are more at risk of negative moods and type 2 diabetes.
  • Public transport users are six times more likely to have respiratory problems.
  • Those who cycle to work have a 45% lower risk of developing cancer, but cyclists in London are 170% more likely to be injured.

I spoke to Dr Daniel Atkinson, Clinical Lead at, who gave his insight into walking, cycling, getting the train, bus or driving to work and how it benefits your health.

“Getting the bus can be anxiety-inducing as it adds to your commute time and you cannot avoid sitting in traffic. Living in an area that isn’t frequently serviced can lead to reduced job satisfaction as well as unpleasant travelling and cramped conditions.”

“Driving to work is the most popular method but it isn’t without its stresses like traffic and increased costs. Ensure you get enough exercise to avoid problems like strain.”

“Cycling to work is an easy way to get exercise. Plus, if you work in the city, it’s likely you’ll use dedicated cycle lanes, making your journey safer.”

Aside from the effect on your respiratory system and exposure to viruses, a longer commute has an adverse effect on your mental health too. An elongated daily commute reduces your job satisfaction and makes your day much more stressful, as being sat in traffic raises your blood pressure. Longer commutes have been linked to more visits to the GP and poor health.

While driving to work is the most common method of commuting, leaving the car behind has a positive effect on your health and wellbeing; statistically, those who do this see a decrease in their BMI.

With so many people using buses and trains every day, it’s an inevitability that they will be laden with germs. Studies have found that the levels of bacteria on a train are as many as 14,000 higher than those in a kitchen.

If you’re a part-time commuter, it can wreak havoc on your immune system but if you’re a seasoned commuting champion, you can build up an immunity to potential viruses.

Train prices are set to rise in January, as they did in 2019, meaning it is becoming increasingly more expensive to just travel to work. Almost 80% of Brits are stressed about money, with 17% identifying as being “very stressed” about the state of their finances.

Depending on the length of your commute, the method you use and the distance between your home and workplace, your sleep may be affected by having to wake up early to get to work.

One in three people in the UK struggle with sleeping issues, which affects your concentration in work and can leave you reaching for caffeine and sugar. Those who are getting less than seven hours of sleep a night are 30% more likely to be obese.

Studies have shown that those who cycle to work have less time off sick than their colleagues who use another method of commuting. Not only that, cycling burns five calories a minute on average, so if you’re cycling for an hour each day, you’re burning 300 calories without going to the gym.

The chances of being injured while cycling soars in London, with the most common injuries linked to wearing dark clothing, slippery roads due to adverse weather conditions and entering the road from the pavement.

To stay fit and healthy, you should switch up your methods of commuting as Dr Daniel comments, “Variety is the spice of life so change your surroundings when you can as it is so beneficial for your mental health.”