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Open Access Research

Mass community cycling events: Who participates and is their behaviour influenced by participation?

Heather R Bowles1*, Chris Rissel2 and Adrian Bauman1

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Physical Activity and Health, University of Sydney Medical Foundation Building (K25) Level 2, 94 Parramatta Road, Camperdown NSW 2050, Australia

2 Health Promotion Service, Sydney South West Area Health Service and School of Public Health, University of Sydney. Level 9, King George V, Missenden Road, Camperdown NSW 2050, Australia

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2006, 3:39  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-3-39

Published: 7 November 2006

Abstract

Background

Participation in mass physical activity events may be a novel approach for encouraging inactive or low active adults to trial an active behaviour. The public health applicability of this strategy has not been investigated thoroughly. The purpose of this study to was describe participants in a mass cycling event and examine the subsequent effect on cycling behaviour.

Methods

A sample of men and women aged 16 years and older (n = 918) who registered online for a mass cycling event reported cycling ability and number of times they rode a bicycle during the month before the event. One month after the event participants completed an online follow-up questionnaire and reported cycling ability, lifestyle physical activity, and number of times they rode a bicycle during the month after the event. McNemar's test was used to examine changes in self-rated cycling ability, and repeated measures mixed linear modeling was used to determine whether average number of monthly bicycle rides changed between pre-event and post-event assessment.

Results

Participants in the cycling event were predominantly male (72%), 83% rated themselves as competent or regular cyclists, and 68% rated themselves as more active than others of the same sex and age. Half of the survey respondents that rated their cycling ability as low before the event subsequently rated themselves as high one month after the event. Respondents with low pre-event self-rated cycling ability reported an average 4 sessions of bicycle riding the month before the event and an average 6.8 sessions of bicycle riding a month after the event. This increase in average sessions of bicycle riding was significant (p < .0001). Similarly, first-time participants in this particular cycling event significantly increased average sessions of cycling from 7.2 pre-event to 8.9 sessions one month after the event.

Conclusion

Participants who were novice riders or first time participants significantly increased their number of bicycle rides in the month after the event. Further knowledge about the public health applicability of mass events is needed, and methods for attracting less active and novice individuals to participate remain to be developed.