Matt Yglesias suggests that it does.
“My Moneybox predecessor Annie Lowrey did a great piece a while back reviewing some of the literature on the terrible consequences of long commutes, and now a new study gives us even more. It shows that when you control for sociodemographic characteristics, smoking, alcohol intake, family history of diabetes, and history of high cholesterol that commuting distance is negatively associated with physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness and positively associated with BMI, waste [sic] circumference, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and continuous metabolic score.
What’s more, if you add physical activity and cardioresporatory fitness to the control model you still get a statistically significant correlation with high blood pressure.”
I tend to roll my eyes at this type of research because in the language of economics, it lacks a structural model. That is at model time folks seem to forget that they are dealing with a complex system that has specifically evolved to maintain equilibrium in the face of exogenous shocks.
Moreover, the human system is not much different than most mammalian systems and so positing cognitive causes as the source seems sketchy at best. This is not to say impossible, but simply that a claim so ridiculous on its face would require a really good story. To date I have yet to hear one and typically when I’ve challenged obesity researchers with an implicitly cognitive model they typically seem unaware that one would need a story or structural model.
All that having been said, the commuting hypothesis is not crazy. We have observed that sitting for prolonged periods has strange hormonal effects. We’ve observed that certain kinds of chronic stress can have strange effects and we know that we can manipulate body mass by using drugs that manipulate serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and cortisol. So, we have something remotely suggestive of a mechanism.
All that having been said my intuition still says we are looking at a single vector, and it’s a molecule or family of molecules. Still, something like the commuting/sitting hypothesis should be taken seriously.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.