Image: Traffic in Austin, Texas
Harry Cabluck  /  AP file
Commuters are more likely to sacrifice sleep, exercise, eating with family and food preparation than TV time, according to a new study.
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updated 7/30/2012 2:16:25 PM ET 2012-07-30T18:16:25

Have a long daily work commute? You might be sacrificing more than you realize. According to new research from Brown University, if you spend an hour a day commuting, you surrender sleep, exercise, eating with your family, and food preparation--but not TV time.

In the study, even people with the longest daily commute (three hours) managed to get in an hour and a half of TV time, but only 14 minutes of exercise. "The old excuse was, 'I'd love to exercise or prepare healthy meals, but I can't because I don't have the time,'" says lead researcher Thomas J. Christian, a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Gerontology and Healthcare Research at Brown. "But even those pinched for time are still watching TV." (You can always find time to exercise. In fact, give us 30 minutes just three days a week, and our all-new 8-DVD Speed Shred program will give you abs in 82 days!)

So what's the fix? Here's one starting point: Drive smarter and cut 10 minutes off your commute. To save time and gas, plan your driving routes based on fewer full stops instead of higher speed limits, advises Eyal Pe'er, Ph.D., a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University. A route that allows you to drive 35 mph without many stoplights will usually beat one that lets you drive 55 but forces you to sit still every mile or two. And whatever you do, don't trust the travel time estimates offered by sites like Google Maps or Mapquest. They rely on simplistic equations and usually underestimate actual drive time, Pe'er says.

OK, so you're still probably stuck with a long drive home. But rather than turning to the boob tube for your evening relaxation, listen to public radio or podcasts on the way home to get your entertainment fix, suggests Christian. That way you'll have time to hit your basement gym before bedtime. An added bonus: You'll avoid distraction on the road. Listening to the same kind of music from the same band can be repetitive, but most podcasts change their content frequently, which keeps you engaged, says Paul Atchley, Ph.D., an associate psychology professor at the University of Kansas. Might we suggest The Men's Health Podcast to get you started?

Additional reporting by Markham Heid and Andrew Daniels

More Links:
Pain-Proof Your Daily Work Commute
The 5 Stupidest Things You Do While Driving
Is Your Commute Making You Fat?
Do This, Live 2 Years Longer
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