Work from Home, Save Your Heart

Too much commuting can be a strain on your heart.

By Leah Zerbe


 A long commute raises your risk of heart disease. The time you spend sitting during your daily commute could hurt your heart, according to a study published this month in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise. Those who watch TV and endure a long commute are even more at risk for cardiovascular disease.

THE DETAILS: Researchers used data on nearly 7,750 men and studied the relationships between watching TV or time spent riding in a car and death from cardiovascular disease over a 21-year time span. They found that men who spent more than 10 hours a week riding in a car or more than 23 hours a week of combined car riding and TV watching were significantly more likely to have died from cardiovascular disease than those who spent less time sitting still. While this specific study did not look at women's health compared to their time spent sitting, other studies have clearly found that being more active and spending less time in a seat improves your overall health.

WHAT IT MEANS: There have been many studies finding that watching too much TV can make us fat, depressed, stressed, and more unhealthy than people who spend more times up and outdoors. But the commute component of this new study adds evidence that routine commuting can add to the unhealthy effects of being a couch potato. This study focused on the inactive time you spend in the car during commutes, but we also know that vehicle exhaust contributes to air pollution and breathing problems. And a German study published last year found that being stuck in traffic triples your heart attack risk.

In a perfect world, we could all bike-commute to work every day. (Next week is National Bike to Work Week, by the way.) But since that's not possible for everyone, it might be in your best interest to explore other options that could boost your productivity, improve your health, reduce pollution, and save your company money.

Here's how to work from home:

• Know your policy. Between 2006 and 2008, the number of employee telecommuters in the United States increased by nearly 40 percent. With about 17 million people working from home, your company may already have a telecommuting policy in place that you don't even know about. Check with your human resources department to see, and if there is a policy, make sure you read through it before making any proposals to your boss, suggests Marcia Rhodes, spokesperson for WorldatWork, a global human resources association that helps companies implement telework options. (Yes, she was working from home during this interview.)

Your company may also have informal policies, so individual managers may have the power to grant you work-from-home status. (Working two days a week from home is the average for telecommuters.)