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8 strategies to make long commute better

Updated: July 28, 2012 6:10AM

Q. I’ve been offered a job 50 miles away. It will take more than an hour to drive each way. The money is good, but that’s a big chunk of time. Am I risking my health?

A. Long commutes negatively impact your health; they eat up time you might use for exercise; traffic produces extra stress, and sitting in your car is added to the total time you spend sitting. In fact, people who sit eight to 11 hours a day are twice as likely to die (over any given three-year period) than folks who sit down for four hours a day or less. And now, a Texas study confirms what we’ve suspected: The longer the commute, the more likely you are to put on pounds and increase your risk for heart disease.

Make an exercise pact (write it into a real contract with yourself):

† Work out for 30 minutes before work or Find a gym near the office; OR

† Get in a 30-40 minute workout during the day or stop at the gym on your way home at least three days a week.

† Make time to get up from your desk every two hours; take the stairs or walk around the parking lot for a minimum of five minutes.

† Use drive time for stress reduction.

† Get into music or listen to audio books.

† Take an orange, lemon, a rose or some basil with you in the car. Their scents contain linalool, which helps induce calm.

† When stuck in traffic, practice progressive relaxation: Tense muscles in your feet, then relax them. Work your way up to your shoulders.

† Keep a cooler in the car to store healthy beverages and snacks. It’s too easy to pull into a drive-thru and blow your calorie count.

Q. My 57-year-old brother thought he had a heart attack, but the doctors in the ER said it was JUST a panic attack. It was terrifying. What caused it, and can he avoid one in the future?

A. Rapid heart rate, chest pains, shortness of breath, nausea, numbness, chills and hot flashes lasting for about 10 minutes, right? Well, a panic attack can happen to almost anyone at any time (although women have them twice as often as men). It’s caused by overwhelming anxiety.

Fortunately, there are effective treatments, both behavioral and pharmaceutical. Your brother should see his physician to make sure there isn’t some unknown trigger, such as side effects from medications he’s taking, excess alcohol use or simply exercising after too much coffee.

Then his doc can recommend a mental health professional for counseling, medication or both, so your brother can learn ways to short-circuit panic attacks before they happen.

King Features Syndicate

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