Time is precious – use it wisely.
If there’s anything worse than work, it’s traveling to and from work – it’s mundane, stressful and often time-consuming. In fact, it’s so horrible that I guarantee you almost always wish you were snuggled up in your warm bed, surrounded by puppies. Or maybe you wish you were using the time to do something to improve your overall health and wellbeing, like exercising.
It takes me almost two hours to get to work, so I consider myself an expert on this topic. To help you make the most of your travel time, here are 13 ways to improve your health on your commute.
1. Ditch the car
Not only is driving more stressful due to unpredictable delays – in a 2015 study, drivers said they budgeted an extra 21 minutes in travel time, on average, to deal with traffic congestion – it also leads to a much unhealthier lifestyle. You’re more likely to stop by a McDonald’s or two along the way, and chances are you’re driving so you can park as close to work as possible, instead of parking nearby and giving your legs a workout. So, if there’s another way to get to work (taking the subway or bus), give it a go every now and then. The break in routine will also be beneficial to your mental wellbeing.
2. Walk, jog or cycle
If you can, take it one step further and ditch the car, the bus and the subway. A study published in Archives of Internal Medicine found that 16 per cent of commuters who walked or cycled to work were less likely to be overweight and had healthier levels of blood pressure, triglycerides and insulin. Walking, jogging or cycling to work will not only give you a chance to squeeze more exercise into your busy day, but you’ll also be cutting down on carbon emissions, which will improve everyone’s health over time.
Put your headphones in and focus on a short meditation. Meditation has been proven to lower blood pressure and reduce stress, keeping your brain quieter and healthier. The Headspace app is free on both Android and iPhone, and is a great way to get started with short meditations.
4. Strike up a convo
Start a conversation with a stranger on the subway, even if you just offer a sincere compliment. There are numerous mental and physical health benefits to social interaction – it will make you feel better about yourself and could help you get over any social anxiety.
5. Listen to a comedy podcast
There are so many studies proving the health benefits of laughter. A Vanderbilt University study found that 10 to 15 minutes of laughter a day can burn up to 40 calories, a University of Maryland study found humor can prevent heart disease, and a Loma Linda University study found humor considerably lowers the stress hormone cortisol. In other words, laughter really is the best medicine.
Feeling grateful not only feels really good, it also has proven benefits, like improving self-esteem and enhancing relationships. Gratitude reduces depression and can increase happiness, and grateful people report less physical pain and healthier lifestyles. Taking the time to write in a journal for all the things you’re grateful for can improve your mental and physical health.
7. Learn a language
People who are multilingual are better at making decisions, are more perceptive, have better memories and score better in tests. All of these benefits aside, using your brain will lower your risk of cognitive decline when you get old. One of the apps I love is Duolingo – it helps make learning a new language surprisingly easy.
8. Exercise your kegels
When done properly for just 10 minutes a day, these exercises can strengthen your pelvic floor and give you stronger orgasms, which will have a positive impact on your mental health. It also helps strengthen your bladder. Wins all over the place!
9. Do a bunch of other exercises
Don’t stop at kegels – there are heaps of basic exercises you can do while sitting down, like engaging your upper abs and holding for 10 seconds, or doing pushups against the door. Okay, you may only want to do these if there aren’t many other commuters nearby… Just think about how good you’ll look once the exercise starts to pay off, not what you look like when you’re actually doing them.
10. Read a book
A 2009 University of Sussex study found reading to be the best activity to reduce stress – even better than having a cup of tea or listening to music. Reading also makes sure your brain is active, which helps stave off Alzheimer’s and slows mental decline. So throw a paperback in your purse or invest in a Kindle. If you drive, borrow an audio book from your local library.
Doing simple breathing exercises can help de-stress, lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety. And considering our jobs are often the cause of all these health issues, doing some breathing on the commute before and after work (and during) can result in a positive impact on your overall health.
12. Pack healthy snacks
By keeping a banana or almonds in your bag, you will never miss breakfast again – and we all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day. At the end of the day, having something to snack on while you travel home will help avoid any hangry symptoms you might have because of traffic or transport delays, and it’ll also prevent you from binge-eating as soon as you get home.
13. Do it with a friend
Carpooling will help your mental health and your wallet. As mentioned earlier, there are benefits to social interaction – and you’ll certainly reap the rewards if you carpool or travel on public transport with a friend or workmate.
14. Have a nap
If you take the subway, squeezing in a short nap could benefit your health and productivity. The National Sleep Foundation found that a nap of between 20 and 30 minutes can improve alertness without leaving you feeling groggy or affecting your night-time sleep. If you have trouble getting proper sleep at night, a cheeky nap on the subway or bus could be just what you need to get through the work day. Just make sure you set an alarm to wake you up before your scheduled stop.
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Comment: How do you get through your commute?