Healthspan October 06, 2017

If you commute to work in the mornings you’re not alone. In fact, research by the Trades Union Congress estimates that 3.7 million workers – one in seven – spend at least two hours commuting every single day. A figure that has increased by one third in the last five years and shows no sign of slowing down. 

But while a fairly lengthy commute might be necessary to get to work in the morning, there’s no written rule that says you have to bus, car or train it. In fact: why not walk, jog, run your way to better health with these easy alternatives:

1. Get up and go (walk)

Though you might just see it as a slower way to get there, walking is a great alternative to taking the bus or driving to work. Not only is walking as exercise free, it requires no specialist equipment and can be done anywhere at any time of the day, by anyone.

And it’s great for your health says Nicola Addison, personal trainer and wellbeing expert: “the less we use our muscles and joints, the shorter and tighter they become. Walking is a great weight-bearing exercise, helping to maintain muscle flexibility and strength.”

Start simply and gradually increase the speed at which you walk for more of a workout.

2. Try cycling instead

Cycling is a great alternative for when your commute is that little bit too far to walk. As a general rule of thumb, most cyclists can cover a distance of five miles in around half an hour. But if it’s been a while since your last ride or you’re only just losing the training wheels, start off slow and gradually build up your stamina.

Not only is cycling great for improving your cardiovascular fitness, strengthening joints, toning muscles and burning calories, it requires no fuel (apart from a hearty breakfast) and produces no emissions, making it good for the environment. Just think how smug you’ll feel weaving in and out of all those traffic jams…

3. The 50-50 compromise

If you really don’t have time to walk or cycle for the duration of your commute, why not try a combination? Drive, train or bus part of the way, and park up at a stop that’s closer to your destination:

“Simply getting off a couple of bus or tube stops before you normally would will drastically increase your total number of steps per day”, says Nicola Addison. “A mile of walking, which takes around 20 minutes will usually equate to around 2000 steps”.

4. Don’t forget to train your brain

If you really can’t forsake half an hour to walk to work, try focussing on a different kind of work out. Did you know that just like the rest of our muscles, our brain’s need regular stimulation and challenges to keep them functioning?

If you’re a passenger in a car, on a train or bus, spend your travel time reading, playing brain training games and puzzles, or meditating to keep your brain sharp. “Keeping mentally active by taking part in mental agility puzzles such as Sudoku or crosswords is vital for maintaining the connections between brains cells and helping to slow down memory loss,” explains Dr Roger Henderson.

5. There’s always the way home…

If your morning schedule won’t allow for any detours, why not plan ahead and walk or cycle home instead? Not only will this take off the added pressure of getting to work on time that switching up your morning commute will, but it also gives you more exercise options.

Avid runner, but don’t fancy arriving at the office dripping with sweat? Take your kit with you and change at work before running home. The same goes for walking and cycling. And, if you decide to go 50-50, two shorter cycles or walks will provide the same benefits as one longer one.

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.

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