The Health Benefits of Alternative Commuting

man walking on a bridge with trees behind
June 10, 2021
It’s no secret that the daily commute to work can be stressful. Whether a long journey or a traffic-riddled one, commuting puts added stress on your body that can lead to poor physical and mental health. Moreover, as most Americans drive to work, the communal practice of commuting contributes to emissions waste and ultimately climate change.
 
The good news is that driving yourself to work, though it may seem like a no-brainer, is not the only option for daily commuting. Try these alternative commuting strategies for a healthier you and healthier Earth.
 

Carpooling

Carpooling is an easy way to reduce carbon emissions that has many additional benefits. For starters, carpooling has the social benefit of meeting new work friends or connecting with people in different departments.  Moreover, carpooling decreases the costs associated with driving to work for everyone involved. Of course, carpooling—or van-sharing—still employs a vehicle. So, make sure the vehicle is regularly serviced, tires are at full pressure, and air conditioning (when able) is limited—all easy tricks to reduce car emissions. 
 

Public Transit

Public transportation, like carpooling, improves air quality by way of reducing traffic congestion. Moreover, public transit is a cost effective way to commute. The great thing about public transit is that there is a built-in network of resources—namely, your city or town’s department of transportation. One might also consider using commuter crowdsourcing chats (e.g., on WhatsApp or GroupMe) where daily commuters can contribute and stay updated on changes to buses, trains, etc. Additionally, many workplaces have implemented public transit incentives. These range from van share services from the local station to work to financial payoffs: employees can have pretax dollars withheld from their paycheck for mass transit or parking fees. 
 

Biking and Walking

Where carpooling or public transit help reduce emissions and costs associated with travel, incorporating physical activity into your daily commute has more substantial health benefits. Scientifically speaking, physical activity lowers one’s risk of several chronic diseases and mental health illnesses. From a normative standpoint, incorporating fitness into your routine, either in the form of biking or walking, takes pressure off “hitting the gym” after a grueling day of work. Moreover, biking or walking to work probably adds less time to your daily commute than you might think. Check your city website for bikeshare services, city bike maps, and shuttle services that allow you to bring your bike on board with you. 
 

Alternative Work Schedules 

Finally, rather than trying to fit health benefits around your schedule, it may be ideal to creatively reinvent your schedule itself. Employees with flexible work arrangements may condense their number of work days (i.e. commuting days) and work longer hours. Another option is to adjust work hours to avoid peak traffic times. Either way, flexible work arrangements, through enhancing one’s work-life balance, provide a comprehensive solution to many of the burdens of commuting and increase productivity at work.