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Is a change in mode of travel to school associated with a change in overall physical activity levels in children? Longitudinal results from the SPEEDY study

Lee Smith12, Shannon Sahlqvist12, David Ogilvie12, Andy Jones3, Kirsten Corder2, Simon J Griffin12 and Esther van Sluijs12*

Author Affiliations

1 MRC Epidemiology Unit, Institute of Metabolic Science, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Box 285, Cambridge CB2 0QQ, UK

2 UKCRC Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), Institute of Public Health, Forvie Site, Robinson Way, Cambridge CB2 0SR, UK

3 School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7JT, UK

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2012, 9:134  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-9-134

Published: 21 November 2012

Abstract

Background

Children who use active modes of travel (walking or cycling) to school are more physically active than those who use passive (motorised) modes. However, less is known on whether a change in mode of travel to school is associated with a change in children’s physical activity levels. The purpose of this analysis was to investigate the association between change in mode of travel to school and change in overall physical activity levels in children.

Methods

Data from 812 9–10 year old British children (59% girls) who participated in the SPEEDY study were analysed. During the summer terms of 2007 and 2008 participants completed a questionnaire and wore an accelerometer for at least three days. Two-level multiple linear regression models were used to explore the association between change in usual mode of travel to school and change in objectively measured time spent in MVPA.

Results

Compared to children whose reported mode of travel did not change, a change from a passive to an active mode of travel was associated with an increase in daily minutes spent in MVPA (boys: beta 11.59, 95% CI 0.94 to 22.24; girls: beta 11.92, 95% CI 5.00 to 18.84). This increase represented 12% of boys’ and 13% of girls’ total daily time spent in MVPA at follow-up.

Conclusion

This analysis provides further evidence that promoting active travel to school may have a role in contributing to increasing physical activity levels in children.

Keywords:
Transport; Active travel; Physical activity; School children