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Most of us get to work one way: on our butts. And new research shows that the longer we’re on them—either because we’re traveling long distances or are simply battling mind-numbing traffic—the worse off our health is. In fact, the study of 4,000 commuters, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that those with the longest commutes had lower levels of cardiovascular fitness, larger waist circumferences and higher blood pressure.
Those findings don’t surprise Larysa DiDio, a celebrity trainer in New York City and co-author of Sneaky Fitness. Long commutes can trigger a cascade of physical changes: “They can be stressful, which leads to high levels of cortisol and increased belly fat,” she says. “Plus, all that extra sitting—on top of what you do at the office—makes you tight. And the tighter you are, the less motivated you are to do active things.”
You can’t exactly lift weights or get your heart pumping during drive (or train) time, but you can do plenty to counteract the stiffness of sitting. Try these moves next time you’re cooling your cheeks either behind a sea of red tail-lights or at your desk:
Neck-tension releaser: Grab seat with left hand. Place right hand on head and gently pull to the right. Hold, then switch.
Posture pull: Extend arms in front (grabbing steering wheel if you have one). Keeping hands in place, lift chest and pull shoulders back, then relax. Repeat 10 times.
Piriformis stretch: Place right ankle on left knee; gently press down on right knee and lean forward until you feel a stretch in your hips. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds and switch sides.
Seated hamstring stretch: Extend right leg forward. Reach left hand toward right toe. Hold, then switch.