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Change in active travel and changes in recreational and total physical activity in adults: longitudinal findings from the iConnect study

Shannon Sahlqvist12*, Anna Goodman3, Ashley R Cooper4, David Ogilvie2 and on behalf of the iConnect consortium.

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research (C-PAN) School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia

2 Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit & UKCRC Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), Institute of Public Health, Cambridge, UK

3 Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK

4 Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences, School of Policy Studies, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2013, 10:28  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-10-28

Published: 27 February 2013



To better understand the health benefits of promoting active travel, it is important to understand the relationship between a change in active travel and changes in recreational and total physical activity.


These analyses, carried out in April 2012, use longitudinal data from 1628 adult respondents (mean age 54 years; 47% male) in the UK-based iConnect study. Travel and recreational physical activity were measured using detailed seven-day recall instruments. Adjusted linear regression models were fitted with change in active travel defined as ‘decreased’ (<−15 min/week), ‘maintained’ (±15 min/week) or ‘increased’ (>15 min/week) as the primary exposure variable and changes in (a) recreational and (b) total physical activity (min/week) as the primary outcome variables.


Active travel increased in 32% (n=529), was maintained in 33% (n=534) and decreased in 35% (n=565) of respondents. Recreational physical activity decreased in all groups but this decrease was not greater in those whose active travel increased. Conversely, changes in active travel were associated with commensurate changes in total physical activity. Compared with those whose active travel remained unchanged, total physical activity decreased by 176.9 min/week in those whose active travel had decreased (adjusted regression coefficient −154.9, 95% CI −195.3 to −114.5) and was 112.2 min/week greater among those whose active travel had increased (adjusted regression coefficient 135.1, 95% CI 94.3 to 175.9).


An increase in active travel was associated with a commensurate increase in total physical activity and not a decrease in recreational physical activity.

Active travel; Physical activity; Walking; Cycling; Longitudinal