Public transport is often touted as a healthier commute alternative to driving. Walking to the train station or bus stop and between public transport connections can certainly provide an extra boost of physical activity in what can be a mostly sedentary day for some.
But just how accurate is this claim?
Public transport users will benefit from an extra 33 minutes of physical activity per day in comparison to car drivers. Another research paper identified that 30% of studied public transport users met all their recommended physical activity levels just from walking to and from their selected mode of transport.
A Canadian study evaluating the potential health benefits of public transport also highlighted reduced emotional stress as a benefit to users. Academics from the University of East Anglia backed up the claim, studying 18,000 workers in the UK to reveal that, for most people, taking public transport instead of driving made them happier.
The research even factored in the potential stress from crowds and delays in services, and public transport still reigned supreme. We’d love to see the same type of research conducted in an Australian city, where public transport infrastructure is most probably vastly different.
Most of the negatives are related to public transport users who are unlucky enough to have a long commute.
Swedish research found that a longer commute (by public transport or car) can result in poor sleep quality and exhaustion.
Contradictory to the UK research above, stats from 2014 revealed commuters who were on a bus for 30 minutes or longer had lower levels of life satisfaction and were generally unhappier.
Unfortunately, in cities like Melbourne and Sydney, many people are being pushed to the outskirts by sky high real estate prices. This could result in a larger number of unhappy, less healthy workers commuting for more than 3 hours a day.
If you live far from your place of work, there are still solutions! Try to switch it up a bit by adding in connections so you’ll be forced to get up and walk more. If the additional connections will cause stress and increase your commute time, try distracting yourself during the commute with a good book, a mindfulness app, or even that Netflix show you’ve been binging.
If you’re an average public transport user whose commute isn’t horrendously long, you’re in luck! You may end up healthier and happier than your car driving counterparts. And it’s much better for the environment too!
Do you drive or get public transport to work? Let us know how it makes you feel!