Overcoming Unhealthy Experiences of Megacity Traffic

Daily traffic congestion in a megacity is a challenging experience, one that significantly deteriorates our health, fitness, and sustainability. We are often sitting for hours behind the steering wheel or on the passenger seat, frustratingly watching the vehicle worm through a sea of other vehicles, inch by inch. Our blood flow stagnates, our limbs become numb, our stomachs turn, our eyes become blurry, and our minds become super dizzy.

Definitely not a sustainable way of surviving craziness in the megacity! Not when we are supposed to work out at least one hour a day. But that exercise and fitness window oftentimes gets stolen in traffic!

I have lived or stayed in many mega cities, including Los Angeles, New York, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Bangkok, and Manila. In each mega city, I’ve had personal horror stories and horror stories of friends, colleagues, and loved ones.

Whilst living in Sao Paulo, the traffic took a toil on my body.

Life in Sao Paulo, with 23 million people and an underdeveloped public transportation infrastructure, was about physically surviving traffic jam marathons. Getting to the office after a brutal two-hour commute, all sweaty and exhausted, would be normal. My car would normally become immobile on Marginal Pinheiros, the major highway skirting the Pinheiros River on the northern and western sides of the city.

It took me at times one and a half hour on Marginal Pinheiros to get back in the evening from office to my apartment, while covering a distance of less than 6 kilometers. I felt hungry, dizzy, and sick. I drank exhaust from the cars ahead of me. My heart rate and blood pressure would increase. I felt stuck.

Similar stories abound everywhere. Joy, a colleague of mine, would always have a heart attack when she found out she needed to attend a business meeting in Metro Manila’s Bonafacio Global City. For hours she would sit in the passenger seat, with a raging headache, as her company vehicle crawled to a stop on EDSA North. No exercise and no fitness.

Getting stuck on Manila's EDSA for over three hours, sitting inside the vehicle with nowhere to go

What can we all do about this? This is impacting our lives in a major way.

The simple answer is to make time. And make a small effort. Let’s take back control of our health and our fitness.

When we hit a stop light, we can take 30 seconds to do some simple stretching.

When we are sitting as passengers in an Uber or taxi, we can perform a variety of quick exercises that make us feel healthier.

We can stop the headaches, the bleary eyes, and the numbness.

Here are three examples of simple categories of exercises that you can do next time you are stuck in a traffic jam:

  1. Neck Exercise

Rotate your neck gently clockwise and counterclockwise a few times. Then push back onto the head rest, hold for a few seconds, and repeat again a couple times.

2. Abdominal Exercise

Take a deep breath. Then contract the stomach slowly and exhale. Hold the pose for a few seconds while taking light breathes. Then repeat.

3. Butt Exercise

Sit up straight and clench your butt muscles. Lift up from your seat for an inch or two centimeters in the clenching form, hold for a few seconds, relax, and then repeat the movement.

Try them next time! Little by little, we can overcome our unhealthy experiences in megacity jams!

Fitness and exercise does not need to stop with traffic.

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