A Better Commute

A Better Commute

Pentecost 4


In January of 2009, an addition was made to a little known United States law regarding tax credits for commuting to work.  The commute is something we all do, whether to work, to get groceries, to visit friends, or for entertainment and vacation purposes.  You could say we commute from one life experience to another and you would be completely correct.


The average American commutes just under thirty minutes to work one way, spending 25.5 minutes a day either on a train or other form of public transportation or in a car.  That adds up to fifty-one minutes a day or two hundred and four hours a year.  This time is not having a positive effect on our health.


Commuting at least ten miles a day one way to work has been shown to result in higher cholesterol and blood sugar numbers.  This can lead to being at risk for heart disease and diabetes.  Depression levels are also higher for people with a commute of at least ten miles and higher anxiety levels and depression is more prevalent in people commuting at least thirty minutes a day.


People with any length of a commute at all also show a lower happiness quotient and less satisfaction overall with their life.  Those who take public transportation above ground or ride a bicycle to work report exhibit less stress in their commute but they still are not on track with those who have no commute at all.


The fact is that rush hour traffic spikes our blood pressure.  Concern over the upcoming day or fear of missed appointments can take over our thoughts and bodies.  The results are not beneficial.  Unless we are willing to live in a communal situation without coworkers and have our office two inches from our beds, though, commuting is an essential part of life.  How can we make it less ordinary and more beneficial?


The change in the tax law I mentioned involved a tax credit for bicycling to work.  In January of 2009, bicycling was added to the list of qualified transportation fringe benefits covered in section 132 (f) of the Internal Revenue Service Code (26 U.S.C. sec. 132(f)).  Employers can now pay employees up to twenty dollars a month for such expenses.  While that might not seem like a great deal. It is but one way to improve your commute and your health.


A recent study done in Texas showed that the longer you live from work, the higher your blood pressure.  This places one at risk for strokes as well as heart disease.  Those with longer commutes also have lower levels of cardiovascular fitness which put them into danger zones for overall health.  IF work is done to enable us to have better lives, then why should we allow getting there to kill us?


Commuting is a necessary part of life for most of us.  Therefore we need to find ways to make it healthier.  If you take a bus or train, walk to the next stop and don’t board at the one closest to your home.  It will mean leaving home a little bit earlier but the added cardio fitness will improve your health.  And when you get ready to depart, leave a sticky note on your seat with a happy face on it.  J Brighten the day of the person who will next sit in your seat!


Many of us letting someone else drive our commute will use this time to get work done.  Put your work away and save it for the office.  Use this time instead to read or listen to an audiobook.  Find something relaxing and remember to keep your posture healthy while doing it.  Hunched over an iPad or tablet computer is as bad as being hunched over the wheel of a car.  Our bodies function best when we give them the correct posture.


Adding thirty minutes to your morning routine can add years to your life.  Adding time for morning exercise before your shower is also a good way to improve one’s disposition.  You are starting the day out positive and that feeling will remain with you.  Pay attention to your surroundings as you commute.  The natural world is a beautiful place.  My own stress levels are less during my commute in the fall because I pass a mountain that becomes a masterpiece of autumn colors with the leaves changing from green to shades of crimson, yellow, and gold.


Most of us consider our fellow travelers as merely chess pieces but if we take time to observe them we become connected and that also helps reduce stress.  Leaving a note means you are leaving a smile and sharing a smile is always a great start to the day.


Later in this series we will discuss ways to help charitable organizations while commuting but for today, stop thinking about the clock and start enjoying the process of getting to your next destination.  And if possible and weather permitting, walk or ride a bike.  The Exercise will increase your productivity at work and reduce your carbon footprint.  You will not only be doing something for yourself but for the world.  Thanks!


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