Long, traffic-filled commutes to work are much more damaging than previously thought, according to new research, because it can make you less productive at work. 

The study, commissioned by social enterprise free2cycle, showed that driving or taking public transport to work is significantly more damaging to our wellbeing than choosing a more active commute such as walking or cycling. A quarter (26%) of people who travel to work by car, motorbike or public transport feel stressed by their commute; that's almost three times more than people who walk or cycle (9%).

Almost one in five (18%) Brits who commute by driving or public transport say their journey makes them miserable, double that of those who have a more active commute (9%).

UK commuters will spend on average £135,000 over their lifetime travelling to work, which could explain why almost a quarter (23%) of those who do not walk or cycle, say commuting drains their finances. People with a more active commute may be feeling smug, as not only do the majority enjoy their commute (60%), only 6% say they feel an impact on the wallet.

With the findings indicating driving or taking public transport puts a clear stress on our physical and mental wellbeing, it's not surprising that one in ten (10%)people who travel to work this way say they are less productive as a result. Half this many active commuters (5%) felt their productivity was impacted negatively by their journey.  

Some 95% of those who don't cycle or walk to work have considered it, however, there were factors stopping them from switching to a more active commute.

Over one in five (22%) respondents have work-related reasons; namely not having the appropriate facilities to get ready afterwards or feeling too embarrassed about colleagues seeing them hot and sweaty or in activewear. For 12% of people money was an issue, stating they don't have a bike and can't afford to buy one, while 16% of those surveyed said they didn't feel safe enough to choose a more active journey.

Some 67% of people believe their employer could make allowances to enable a more active commute such as introducing flexible starting times, access to changing facilities and incentives for equipment such as cycle to work schemes. However, only 8% of people said their employers have any allowances in place.

free2cycle,the organisation behind the study, is a social enterprise committed to transforming wellbeing through cycling. It does this by working in partnership with organisations, retailers, suppliers and particularly those who don't currently cycle, to incentivise regular bike use.

Commenting on the study, Eric Craig, CEO of free2cycle, said: "Our research shows that those who choose a more active journey feel less stressed by their trip to work and more productive than other commuters. This is because we're more productive when we're fitter. We're also more well in ourselves; which in turn reduces the likelihood of sick days. Making our commute part of a regular exercise routine can make us happier, smarter and more energetic, whilst also being good for mental health."

Eric Craig added: "Our findings cement the daily horror stories you hear about the unfit, unproductive and unwell UK workforce. An active commute is a great way to improve health, wellbeing and our environment. However, as our research shows, the nation is finding the sedentary daily commute physically and mentally straining and is crying out for organisations to provide the facilities and initiatives to switch to a more active commute. This needs to change. UK businesses are responsible for leading a change in prioritising health and wellbeing of their teams, and for this to be successful, they should include considering how they get to and from work."

Perhaps surprisingly, it isn't Londoners who are feeling the strain of their commute the most; it's the West Midlands; 30% of Londoners say commuting makes them stressed, far less than places such as Walsall (43%) and Birmingham (37%).

Brits with a less active commute are also finding they put on weight as a result of their daily routine; almost one in ten (9%), compared to a slim 2% of more active commuters.

Contrary to what you might expect, it's not the active commuters who are feeling the need for a hot soak after their commute; just 5% of cyclists and walkers find their journey physically uncomfortable, whereas over double the amount (11%) of drivers and public transport passengers, often have aches and pains, such as backache and leg cramps, as a result of their commute.