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Health tips for commuters
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Health tips for commuters

By Monica Cane

Years ago I worked as an office coordinator for a massage therapist.  When I first took the job I assumed that the clients would primarily be exhausted moms who just needed a break from chasing after toddlers, folding mounds of laundry, wiping runny noses and maintaining a household. While indeed many worn-out mamas did come through the doors longing for a relaxing massage, to my suprise there was another group of clients just as exhausted as the mamas who really stood out as people in desperate need of message therapy—commuters.

 Commuting to work has become one of those necessary evils due to the fact that homes are more affordable here in the central valley while the higher salary jobs that pay for the affordable homes are in the Bay Area, hence the need to commute.

 Studies have shown that commuting thirty plus minutes a day, every day, can have a negative effect on one well-being however, applying a few simple tips can turn the negative effects right around, making for a much healthier commuting lifestyle. For example:


Weight Gain

Continually sitting in the care during a long commute, then getting to work and sitting at a desk all day equals lack of physical activity and overtime can lead to weight gain.  While most people are aware of how beneficial it is to exercise 30-minutes a day, commuters often feel like they just don’t have 30 more minutes to spare.  While it is true that the day is long for a commuter, eating well and incorporating exercise even if it’s 15-minutes before work and 15-minutes after can help a commuter keep the weight down and stay healthy.


Neck and Back Pain

For most people, sitting in the driver’s seat of a car, hunched forward while driving, can cause the neck and back to feel a bit achy. But when you are a commuter and are hunched over the steering wheel for a good amount of time every day, the little aches can easily turn into severe or chronic pain.  This is exactly what many commuter clients where experiencing when they came through the doors at the message therapy office. Seeing a massage therapist absolutely relieves neck and back tension but by using a lumbar support for your lower back, sitting up straight and keeping your head and shoulders even while driving, commuters won’t have nearly as much neck and back discomfort. 


A Big Funky Mood

Being stuck in a car during traffic can make anyone a bit crabby but if you’re a commuter who deals with it on a daily basis, feelings go way beyond a wee bit crabby and straight into down right funky.  While there are many legitimate reasons for the funky mood such as being hungry and tired, many commuters admit that part of the funk has to do with feeling isolated and having no social interaction while being stuck behind the wheel, in traffic every day. Even if you’re not particularly an outgoing person, everyone likes to have some sort of social interaction from time to time but when you are stuck in long commute that doesn’t always happen and after awhile you start to feel funky.  Fortunately, there are two easy solutions to help with funky commuter isolation.

One is simply carpooling with others which not only allows for good conversation and a few chuckles before and after work but saves on gas and driving time as well. The other is public transportation.  Here in the central valley we have access to the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE), a service train with stops between Stockton and San Jose.  We also have access to BART, and although the station is located in Pleasanton, it makes for a much easier commute when heading to San Jose or San Francisco.  Besides the obvious benefit of being able to relax while someone else does the driving, public transportation allows commuters the opportunity to connect with others and have some measure of social interaction and perhaps even make new friends as you commute together.

 Commuting may be necessary but it really doesn’t have to be evil. All it takes is a few adjustments and you can be a healthier, happier commuter today.