If I asked you how much time you spent commuting to work, would you know the answer off hand?
What if I asked you if you knew the impact your commute had on your health, lifestyle and relationships?
We all know that riding a bike to work or walking is much healthier than driving to work, but are you aware of exactly how much better?
Recently, Venngage and ApartmentList teamed up to conduct a study and make an infographic on how Americans commute to work. ApartmentList conducted a survey of 18,000 renters in their fourth quarter of last year, and the survey data was combined with apartment rental prices (which ApartmentList collects from its site) and publicly available data on quality of life indicators to find relationships between commute mode, price and health.
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Unsurprisingly, the dominant commute mode was by car (74 percent). However, the percentage of people who bike was surprisingly high (5 percent) than the percentage of people who take the subway (3 percent) or walk (1 percent). Those individuals who live within large cities tend to bike and bus more; however, the people who live outside of major cities in less densely populated areas are more likely to drive to work.
This makes sense for a number of reasons. One, because in densely populated areas it is often easier to bike or take public transit than deal with congested street traffic; but also because the cost of renting is much higher in big cities than in outlying towns.
In the city of Toronto, for instance, if you drive, the cost to park in most public parking lots in the core of the city can cost up to $30 for the working day. At that cost, you’re spending $150 a week just on parking. In addition, the average cost of buying a parking spot in a condo building in the city is between $20,000 to $50,000. That’s more expensive than the cost of purchasing most cars! The price of buying a monthly transit pass, however is approximately the same price. And once again for that same price, you can most likely buy a bicycle that will last you years, or perhaps even life.
The study also found a correlation between rates of obesity and modes of transportation. People who used public transit or mixed commute modes to get to work tended to have lower rates of obesity than people who drove.
Why? Well think about it like this- if you drive, the second you get into the car, to the second you get to the office, you are sitting. Then once you finally arrive at your desk, you are sitting for the rest of the day. You sit the entire way back home, and once you finally get home, you’re probably exhausted and want to rest...by sitting down. Public transit, on the other hand, for the majority of people, will not pick you up right at your door, nor will it drop you off right at the office. Furthermore, during rush hour, it’s almost impossible to get a seat on transit, so you’re standing for the duration of your commute.
So people tend to compensate for expensive city rental prices by taking mixed commute modes to work, which can actually be beneficial for their health. But not everyone can afford city prices. Is there a way to compromise your commute so as not to compromise your health?
Mixing up your commute by driving or biking to a train station can reduce your time spent driving and can encourage some activity on your way to and from work. Granted, mixed mode commutes can take longer than driving--but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Freeing up your hands and mind while you commute can create pockets of free time you don’t have while driving.
I use my daily commute on the train into the city to catch up on news, browse my social media, read a book, or write on my laptop. Sometimes I just listen to music and look out the window. With nothing to distract me, I can enjoy my one hour a day of guilt-free downtime. So in addition to benefiting your health, mixed modes of commute can also provide you with much needed “chill” time.
Here is an infographic with a breakdown of the study’s findings.
Co-written with Sara McGuire