Commute killing mind and body

CECILE MEIER
Last updated 05:00 28/02/2014

How did you get to work today?

According to the latest census, 84 per cent of Cantabs drove or were a passenger in a car. Only 6 per cent biked, 5 per cent walked, and 3 per cent rode a public bus. 

I used to bike everywhere in Switzerland, but since I moved to Christchurch last year, I have become dependent on my car.

Nick and I live in a lovely cottage that belongs to his parents in Tai Tapu. The rent is cheap so it was perfect for when I was a student and we lived on one income. I also enjoy being surrounded by trees, rabbits, sheep, deer and birds.

But the half hour commute to work is wearing on me.

I spend more than an hour a day in my car. I could spend that time exercising, socialising or sleeping in a bit longer. And with every litre of fuel I burn, the environmentally friendly hippy in me dies a little.

A range of international studies have associated long commutes with a whole battery of health problems, and a greater risk of depression, anxiety and social isolation.

The longer the commute, the more exhausted, stressed, and sleep-deprived people become. Some studies even linked driving long distances with a higher chance of divorce.

So to save our bodies from becoming flabby, our brains from turning crazy, and our relationship from ending before we even get married, Nick and I are looking for a place within biking distance of the city centre.

It's also a way to connect to the city.

Sealed in my car, I see the city streets as though I was watching a documentary about Christchurch's mess. And it's a mess I'm making worse by driving around the city spewing pollution and clogging streets.

In contrast, when I walk or bike, I become an active participant. There's more time to observe and enjoy the streets, the people, the progress, the street art. When I can just jump on my bike to go to a café, shop, restaurant, or movie, I'm more likely to do so.

Riding my bike is energising rather than draining, and not just because it gets my heart working.

But finding a place to live in today's rental market is proving difficult.

So in the meantime, I am finding ways to make my commute tolerable. I apply make-up at every red-light - saves me a good five minute preparation in the morning.

Then I turn on Radio New Zealand to work on my English accent. I have already learned new ways to pronounce words like ''negotiate''(say negosseeate rather than negosheate), or ''issue'' (issyoo rather than ishoo). Could be useful in case I move into broadcashting one day.

I have also developed a vigorous in-car workout routine - nothing like butt clenches and steering wheel chin-ups to tone your body.

But these are stop-gap measures. I don't want to spend my year - let alone my life - shuttling back and forward burning dinosaurs.

I'm looking forward to the new bike and pedestrian infrastructure planned for the city, and hope I'll be close enough to use it soon.

How do you commute to work? Would you like to bike/walk more often? Comment below, email me at cecile.meier@press.co.nz or follow me on Twitter.

- The Press

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