Pedometer-determined physical activity and active transport in girls
Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, Division of Sport and Recreation, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand
International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2008, 5:2 doi:10.1186/1479-5868-5-2Published: 11 January 2008
It is well established that the risk of insufficient physical activity is greater in girls than in boys, especially during the adolescent years. The promotion of active transport (AT) to and from school has been posited as a practical and convenient solution for increasing girls' total daily activity. However, there is limited information describing the associations between AT choices and girls' physical activity across a range of age, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. The objectives of this study were to (1) investigate physical activity patterns in a large multiethnic sample of female children and adolescents, and to (2) estimate the physical activity associated with AT to and from school.
A total of 1,513 girls aged 5–16 years wore sealed multiday memory (MDM) pedometers for three weekdays and two weekend days. The ethnic composition of this sample was 637 European (42.1%), 272 Pacific Island (18.0%), 207 East Asian (13.7%), 179 Maori (11.8%), 142 South Asian (9.4%), and 76 from other ethnic groups (5%). Pedometer compliance and school-related AT were assessed by questionnaire.
Mean weekday step counts (12,597 ± 3,630) were higher and less variable than mean weekend steps (9,528 ± 4,407). A consistent decline in daily step counts was observed with age: after adjustment for ethnicity and SES, girls in school years 9–10 achieved 2,469 (weekday) and 4,011 (weekend) fewer steps than girls in years 1–2. Daily step counts also varied by ethnicity, with Maori girls the most active and South Asian girls the least active. Overall, 44.9% of participants used AT for school-related travel. Girls who used AT to and from school averaged 1,052 more weekday steps than those who did not use AT. However, the increases in steps associated with AT were significant only in older girls (school years 5–10) and in those of Maori or European descent.
Our data suggest that adolescent-aged girls and girls of Asian descent are priority groups for future physical activity interventions. While the apparent benefits of school-related AT vary among demographic groups, promoting AT in girls appears to be a worthwhile strategy.