Walking or bicycling to school is an important source of physical activity and may help prevent childhood obesity. However, active commuting has been declining in recent decades. The purposes of this study were to explore travel characteristics in children and examine factors associated with active commuting in children living in urban and non-urban setting. Participants were 834 parents and corresponding children aged 6–10 years, living in the district of Coimbra, Portugal. Data were collected during April–June of 2013 and 2014. Anthropometric measures (height, weight, waist circumference) were taken in children. Mode shift and child/family demographics were assessed by a parental questionnaire. School and home addresses were geocoded and the shortest route (meters) was taken in consideration. Although car is the most common way of travel to school, active transportation is significantly more prevalent in children living in the non-urban setting. Different determinants were found associated with active travel according to the level of urbanization. The adjusted logistic regression revealed that, independently of the urbanization, children whose mothers actively commute to work, whose parents reported their neighbor as safe to walk, and children living less than 2000 m from school were significantly more likely to walk to school. Present findings highlight the need to consider models with different levels, including individual, social, and environmental characteristics, when developing interventions and policies to promote active transport to school.
Active transport Environment design Public health Child Portugal
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The authors are grateful to the schools, children, and parents participating in this study. This work was supported by Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT) under grant SFRH/BD/90737/2012. The authors also want to thank the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions to improve the quality of the paper.
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