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Commuters May Get Less Sleep and Exercise


FILE - Commuters exit a subway in New York City. May, 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Commuters May Get Less Sleep and Exercise
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People who work long hours and have long commutes to their jobs may be more likely to have sleep problems and not get enough exercise, a new study suggests.

Researchers in Sweden carried out the study. They looked at people who work more than 40 hours a week and commute more than half an hour each way on an average day. The researchers found that those people had a 25-percent higher risk for having an inactive lifestyle and a 16-percent higher risk of having sleep problems.

Jaana Halonen is the study’s lead writer. She is with Stockholm University and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, Finland. She said sleep problems may happen from “lack of time for stress-releasing activities and relaxation.” She also said people with long workdays and a long commute may be too tired to be physically active.

The study recently appeared in the publication Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

In the past, researchers have linked long work hours to unhealthy behaviors like physical inactivity, smoking and poor eating choices. However, little is known about the combined effects of working long hours and having long commutes over time.

FILE - Traffic flows over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco in this Sept. 19, 2013 file photo
FILE - Traffic flows over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco in this Sept. 19, 2013 file photo

Many surveyed

For this study, researchers questioned more than 22,000 working-age adults at least two times between 2008 and 2018. And they asked them about their work and commute hours, as well as how much they exercised and slept. The researchers also asked the study subjects how often they smoked and drank alcohol.

Many of those questioned had a usual way of getting to work that remained unchanged during the study period. But 14 percent had commute times change once during the study, and about 5 percent had commute times change at least twice.

Among people who normally worked less than 40 hours a week, the study found that commute time had little effect on habits such as drinking alcohol, smoking or exercising.

The researchers did lack data on how people commuted. This makes it unclear if a commuter had an inactive method for getting to work, like driving a car, or if their commute included some form of exercise.

“We know walking and cycling for commuting tend to be associated with better health,” said Oliver Mytton. He is a researcher at Britain’s University of Cambridge and was not involved in the study.

FILE - Commuters cycle past a bus stop outside Waterloo Station in London, Britain August 6, 2015.
FILE - Commuters cycle past a bus stop outside Waterloo Station in London, Britain August 6, 2015.

Mytton told Reuters that “there is clearly a message here about when choosing a job with a long commute.” He said that people should think about the effects that their job situation may have on their health.

Not everyone has much choice over where they work, or the chance to work from home, Mytton noted. But he said that this “suggests there is a role for employers (and governments) to show flexibility to employees’ needs.”

I’m Anne Ball.

Lisa Rapaport wrote this story for Reuters. Anne Ball adapted the story for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

Do you work long hours and/or have a long commute? Does it create sleep problems or inactive lifestyles for you? How to you deal with it? Write to us in the comments section below.

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Words in This Story

commute – n. to travel regularly to and from a place and especially between where you live and where you work

habit – n. a usual way of behaving, something one does often and in a regular and repeated way

tend – v. used to describe what often happens or what someone often does or is likely to do

flexibility – adj. willing to change or to try different things

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