Unless you work at home, your commute is a necessary part of your job, adding minutes or even hours to your day. But no matter what form it takes, your commute doesn't have to negate your efforts to stay in shape. Whether you drive, walk, take public transportation, cycle, or even skate to work, use your time getting to and from the office in a productive and satisfying way

  • Abandon your auto. Sitting passively behind the wheel does nothing for your health. If you live within a few miles of your workplace, consider walking. You can keep your work shoes in your office or cubicle and change out of your sneakers when you arrive. If you're a little further away, you can probably commute by bicycle. A small backpack shouldn't weigh you down as you cycle, and you can keep essentials such as deodorant, fresh socks and a makeup kit inside it. Ask coworkers if they'd like to walk or bike with you. Going in groups is safer, and you can pass the time by chatting.
  • Make the car your gym. If commuting by car is the only option, at least make your time on the road count toward improved fitness. "When people drive, they tend to get really clenched," says Mo Hagan, a licensed physiotherapist and award-winning fitness instructor in London, Ontario. "When you're sitting at a light or even while you're driving, you can power up your posture. Shift your hips to the back of the seat, which will help you set your pelvis into a better position. Then pull your belly button up and in, which is a great way to activate your abdominals. Then you can draw your shoulders against the back of the seat and slide them down, almost like you want to feel your shoulder blades move toward your back pockets. This helps relieve stress around the neck and opens your chest, which helps you breathe more deeply." Hagan also suggests making sure your head is positioned properly by retracting it so your ears are lined up over your shoulders. "This gives you a sense of a long, lifted spine," she says. Need reminding to sit up straight? Adjust your rear-view mirror so it's a bit higher than you're used to.
  • Hop the bus. Taking public transportation means you'll give up a little bit of control over your commuting schedule but gain some free time. (Hint: More free time equals better mental health.) Use the half-hour on the train or bus to read a book, chat with friends, or return text messages. Properly equipped, you might even be able to do some work, which can reduce your time in the office. And any minutes you spend walking to and from the train station or bus stop count toward your daily fitness goals.
  • Leave extra time. No matter whether you travel by car, train, bus, on foot, or on wheels, make sure you leave yourself adequate time to get where you're gong. Nothing raises stress levels faster than being stuck in traffic or having to make an unanticipated detour. If you're walking or biking, give yourself at least ten minutes before you're expected at your desk to freshen up, get a snack and rehydrate yourself.  


Sources: American Heart Association, www.americanheart.org; Maureen Hagan