How Changing Your Work Commute Can Help You Live Longer

Blue zones residents move naturally every day simply because their environments nudge them to do so. They walk to a neighbor’s house to pick up the latest gossip, they spend their workdays in the fields with their sheep, they spend the afternoon gardening, or they walk to work because their village is designed with the human foot in mind, rather than designed for maximum parking spaces and ease of driving.

In the United States, we’ve engineered movement out of our daily lives. In 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 85.4 percent of the 150 million workers drove to their workplace in an automobile, while only 0.6 percent of the population biked to work.

In a recent study published in The BMJ, researchers found that active transportation users had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality in follow-up years — whether by bike, on foot, public transportation, or a combination of the three. The cyclists, though, saw the most significant benefit with a 41 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality than those who took public transportation or were not active at all during their commutes to work. Walkers showed a 24 percent lower risk of having a heart attack than non-active transportation users.

Jason Gill, study author from the University of Glasgow noted, “What these results suggest is that active commuting is a possibility for a much wider range of people than those who live within a narrow circumference of where they work. If we can change cities so that it’s easier for people to be more active, then people will be.”

What If Biking Isn’t Even An Option?

While walking or biking to work may be an untapped opportunity for some people to move naturally in their daily lives, for others the distance may be too far or could be treacherous. If you work far from home or drive to an office park crossing freeways without bike lanes or sidewalks, there are still ways for you to sneak in extra movement throughout the day.

1. Start a Walking Moai

In Blue Zones Project® communities and worksites, leaders help coordinate walking groups of five to eight individuals to gather and socialize weekly. It’s a great way to keep yourself accountable and meet a group of new friends with similar values.

2. Implement walking or standing meetings

Not only will you add steps, but you could boost brainstorming. According to a Stanford University study, participants’ creative output increased 60 percent when walking as opposed to sitting.

3. Take the stairs a few times during lunch

You could actually return to work with more energy. There’s scientific evidence that suggests 10 minutes of walking or climbing a few flights of stairs is actually more effective than consuming 50 milligrams of caffeine.

4. Park in the furthest space from the entrance

You may be in a hurry to snag the spot near the door, but by parking far away you can increase your step count.

5. Download apps like StretchClock

StretchClock, and other apps like it, reminds you to stretch and get up out of your desk throughout the day. It also has helpful tips to guide you through short and easy exercises you can do right in the office.

6. Encourage your employer to have a light movement or yoga class in the morning

Studies have shown that with even just 20 minutes of yoga practice can significantly improve reaction time and accuracy in cognitive tests.

7. Get to work 15 minutes early and walk around the building or up and down the stairs

If you can’t bike or walk to work, the next best thing is adding movement to your morning routine as if you had!

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