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FOX Medical Team

Long commute times can be hazardous to your health

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ATLANTA -

Atlanta has the one of the longest commute times in the country. So what's all that time behind the wheel doing to your health? The FOX Medical Team's Beth Galvin takes a look.

Hit the road during the Atlanta rush hour and you're almost guaranteed gridlock -- trapped in your vehicle, going nowhere fast for on average 70 minutes a day. Michael Purdon spends 10 times that much time behind the wheel as a commercial trucker for Halvor lines.

"I'm a big coffee drinker. I live on 6, 8 cups of coffee a day. You just get up, you get used to driving long periods after a while," Purdon said.

Purdon drives up to 11 hours a day. Even though he doesn't eat a typical trucker's diet of fast food, last fall he realized that he was getting too heavy.

"I gained about 40 pounds," Purdon said. "Last year, I started noticing my pants didn't fit anymore. They were shrinking in the closet on me and stuff. You just wonder: how did I gain all this weight?"

The long days, no exercise, stress and poor eating can set truckers up for serious health problems.

Cynthia Graff, the CEO of the Lindora Clinics, which specializes in obesity medicine, says trucking is a tough life.

"The fact their average lifespan is only 61 years -- as opposed to 80 -- and that 85 percent of them are overweight or obese, we knew we had to do something," Graff said.

Lindora Clinics partnered with the Truckload Carriers Association and challenged truckers to lose 10 percent of their body weight in 10 weeks with the help from a weight loss coach.

"The drivers learn strategies to eat better, move more and stress less," Graff said.

Now, Purdon buys fresh fruit at truck stops. His company added an on-board refrigerator to take it with him. The biggest challenge is getting in a workout after a long day on the road.

"You just want to kick back, go in and get a shower, eat something in a restaurant, and come back to your truck. It takes a lot of extra discipline to get out and just walk a half-hour," Purdon said. "I started exercising and running every day.  And you don't need to run every day, just get out of the truck and walk a half hour, is all you really need."

The next time you get stuck in a commuting rut, you might want to follow the lead of that trucker beside you.

"You just got to watch what you eat, maybe get out, you get to work, park in the furthest part away from the parking and walk in.  Just something to get the blood circulating," Purdon said.

Michael has lost 30 pounds since October.

If you spend a lot of time on the road, Graff says try keeping some healthy, high protein snacks and water in your vehicle.

If you don't get home until after dark, try walking on your lunch hour, or during your breaks.

In case you've wondered: walking 31 times around an 18-wheeler equals one mile.

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