Going into work could make you healthier, according to a new study

·2-min read
Photo credit: Compassionate Eye Foundation/Morsa Images - Getty Images
Photo credit: Compassionate Eye Foundation/Morsa Images - Getty Images

The return to the office is proving as divisive as whether you should measure a run using miles or kilometres. Some white-colour workers seemingly can’t wait to be back at their desks, while others have enjoyed the increased time and freedom that working from home has provided.

But as many companies make it mandatory for their workforce to work at least one day a week from the office, here’s some good news: travelling to and from work can have some surprising health benefits for body and mind.

That’s according to a new study by the University College London. It found that commuting can boost people’s mental health and helps them to lose weight. Of the 3,000 study participants, almost all of them said that office life gave them a better mindset, while half of them said they snacked more while working from home.

The commute itself can also come with health benefits – particularly if you maximise your time walking in the fresh air. The working-from-home setup, although seemingly affording more time to exercise, has actually resulted in a drop in step count, according to a 2020 study by the University of California.

A commute, by contrast, provides an opportunity for getting outside and walking. Alongside boosting your step count, being outside allows the body to absorb more vitamin D – although an oral supplement is still recommended during the winter months.

Then there’s the structure that going into work can provide. Runners know all about the benefits of routine, and a more structured working week can be part of that. A 2019 study in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine found that people who incorporated healthy habits into their daily lives – like run-commuting or simply eating a piece of fruit every lunchtime – were more likely to stick with them.

Finally, there’s the sleep. Snoozing experts stress the importance of making clear distinctions between areas for work and areas for relaxation. So, if you’ve been using your bedroom as your office, a return to your old office might actually see you get better shuteye. Tellingly, according a survey of 3,000 adults commissioned by The Sleep School, 43% said their sleep either ‘worsened’ or ‘much worsened’ during the pandemic, compared with the 8% who said it ‘improved’ and the 49% who said ‘no change’.

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