The study
A new study in the Occupational and Environmental Medicine journal found people working more than 40 hours a week and commuting more than 5 hours a week were more likely to have sleep problems and were less physically active. Commuting more than a half hour each way to work on a typical day was associated with a 25% higher risk of having a sedentary lifestyle and a 16% higher risk of sleep problems.

Study participants that had longer work hours and commutes were also more likely to be overweight than those who worked or commuted less. Commuting time didn’t appear to influence health behaviors like drinking alcohol, smoking or exercising, among people who normally worked less than 40 hours a week.

The researchers are the first to study the health impacts of long commutes in relation to number of hours worked. Previous studies associated longer commutes with higher weight, larger waist circumferences and weight gain, likely due to less time for physical activity and preparation of healthy food.

Our take
Long hours at work combined with commute times are taking a toll on our workforce. This study suggests that these workers aren’t getting a good night’s sleep and are less physically active. The study’s lead author believes the sleep issues may arise from lack of time for stress releasing activities and workers could be too tired to be physically active when they get home from work.

Our recommendations
Most adult’s daily schedules are determined by their work schedules, including how much time they spend traveling to and from their jobs. Employers can help ease the stress and improve the health of employees by incorporating flexible work hours, telework programs (for positions suitable for working remotely) and a worksite wellness program with onsite fitness classes, healthy food options and stress management resources. These initiatives will help lay the foundation to creating a workplace culture that truly supports employee health and wellness.

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