The typical U.S. metropolitan worker who spends about an hour a day commuting in the car takes a majority of that time away from health-related activities including sleep (30.6 percent less time), exercise (16.1 percent less time), eating with family (5.8 percent), and preparing food (4.1 percent), according to a new study by Brown public health research fellow Thomas J. Christian. To perform the analysis, published online this week by the New York Academy of Medicine's Journal of Urban Health, Christian studied responses by 24,861 people to the federal American Time Use Survey. Among his findings: More than 10 percent of full-time workers spend 120 minutes or more commuting. Based on his analysis of their time budgets, he wrote, “An average commuter whose total commuting time increased one hour daily to 120 minutes would experience a 23-percent reduction in physical activity, a 17-percent reduction in food preparation, an 8-percent reduction in time eating with family, and a 3-percent reduction in sleep time.” Television viewing also suffers as commutes increase, but remains a major time commitment, he found. Even among those whose commutes consume three hours, the average amount of television viewing was more than 100 minutes. “People should recognize that long commutes may siphon time that could otherwise be spent on healthy activities, potentially [leading to] adverse health impacts,” Christian said. “Where possible, they might consider coping strategies to save time such as telecomuting, active commuting modes (walking or cycling), or even parking a bit farther away from their destination in order to walk for some additional physical activity.”

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