Does commuting take a toll on you?

More and more of us commute farther and farther to work than ever. An average Canadian spends 52 minutes per day on the round trip to and from work. That's 316 hours per year – over 13 full days spent in transit!

The truth is, these minutes and hours may seem idle, but they can take a toll on your health in lots of little ways. Aside from the known risks of auto accidents and collisions, there are a few more common, day-to-day dangers of spending so much time behind the wheel:

Honk if you're hurting: It's not just long-haul truckers who experience back pain and other aches after driving for a while. Whether you're in the driver's seat or riding shot-gun, sitting in a car for too long can worsen existing back pain and trigger new troubles.

Honk if your heart is in danger: The heartbreak of heavy traffic goes beyond the emotional stress. Research has turned up a correlation between commuting and heart health. The longer and farther a person's commute is - and the more transfers and changes in their route - the greater the risk of high blood pressure.

Honk if you're stressed: Tense moments - traffic snarls, veering to miss a squirrel, steering through fog or rain - can cause a stress reaction in your body. Adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol churn out, your muscles tense up, and your heart rate and respiration increase. Day after day of dealing with a bad commute can be a chronic stress.

Honk if you're missing out on healthy habits: Feel like you're spinning your wheels during your commute? It makes sense, since time spent on the road is time taken away from healthy habits, including getting enough sleep, physical activity, and nutritious food.

Honk if you're hacking: Spend any amount of time stuck in a car in a high-traffic zone and you'll be exposed to many airborne pollutants.

Your commute may not be the gravest of health threats. But what are your options? You could space out for the 52 minutes and arrive at your destination as a commute zombie - or you can turn what could be considered wasted time into time well-spent. How can you make the most of that widening window of time spent on the road?

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