Sports Medicine

, Volume 31, Issue 5, pp 309–313 | Cite as

Active Commuting to School

An Overlooked Source of Childrens’ Physical Activity?
  • Catrine Tudor-Locke
  • Barbara E. Ainsworth
  • Barry M. Popkin
Current Opinion

Abstract

The assessment and promotion of childrens’ healthful physical activity is important: (i) to combat the international obesity epidemic that extends to childhood; and (ii) to establish an early habit of lifestyle physical activity that can be sustained into adolescence and adulthood. The primary focus of both assessment and promotion efforts has been on in-school physical education classes and, to a lesser extent, out-of-school structured exercise, sport and play. A potential source of continuous moderate activity, active commuting to school by means of walking or by bicycle, has been largely ignored in surveys of physical activity. Suggestive evidence of steep declines in the amount of childrens’ destination walking can be gleaned from national transportation surveys. At the same time, there has been a dramatic increase in the reported use of motorised vehicles, including the use for chauffeuring children. There is very little evidence to support or refute active commuting to school as an important source of childrens’ physical activity; however, this is largely because it has been overlooked in the stampede to assess time in more vigorous activities.

The promotion of active commuting to school must be considered in the context of parents’ real and perceived concerns for their children’s personal and pedestrian safety. We certainly do not have a full understanding at this time of all the factors related to decisions about transportation mode, whether by child, parent, community, or school. Such information is necessary if successful and sustainable interventions can be implemented, important transport policy decisions can be made, and community and school designs can be modified. Practice rarely waits for research, however, and there are numerous examples of innovative programming, policies and environmental designs occurring internationally that can serve as natural experiments for enterprising researchers willing to push the envelope of our understanding of active commuting and childrens’ physical activity. Since we know so little, there is much to learn.

Keywords

Physical Activity Transportation Mode Transport Policy Physical Education Class Independent Mobility 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors are indebted to the continued support of the Scientific Affairs Division of Mars, Inc. and the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) [R01-HD30880 and R01-HD38700] in the preparation of this manuscript.

References

  1. 1.
    Biddle S, Cavill N, Sallis J. Policy framework for young people and health-enhancing physical activity. In: Biddle S, Cavill N, Sallis J, editors. Young and active. London: Health Education Authority, 1998Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Troiano RP, Flegal KM, Kuczmarski RS. Overweight prevalence and trends for children and adolescents. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 1995; 149: 1085–91PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Wang Y, Monteiro C, Popkin BM. Obesity trends in older children and adolescents. Am J Clin Nutr. In pressGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Dollman J, Olds T, Norton K, et al. The evolution of fitness and fatness in 10–11 year old Australian schoolchildren: changes in distributional characteristics between 1985 and 1997. Pediatr Exp Sci 1999; 11 (2): 108–21Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Mamalakis G, Kafatos A, Manios Y, et al. Obesity indices in a cohort of primary school children in Crete: a six year prospective study. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 2000; 24 (6): 765–71PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Sallis J, McKenzie TL. Physical education’s role in public health. Res Q Exerc Sport 1991; 62: 124–37PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Simons-Morton BG, Taylor WC, Snider SA, et al. The physical activity of fifth-grade students during physical education classes. Am J Public Health 1993; 83 (2): 262–4PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Welk GJ, Corbin CB, Dale D. Measurement issues in the assessment of physical activity in children. Res Q Exerc Sport 2000; 71 Suppl. 2: 59–73Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Hillman M, editor. Children, transport, and the quality of life. London: Policies Studies Institute, 1993Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Sleap M, Warburton P. Are primary school children gaining heart health benefits from their journeys to school? Child Care Health Dev 1993; 19: 99–108PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    US Department of Transportation. Proceedings from the Nationwide Personal Transporation Survey Symposium; 1997 Oct 29–31; Bethesda (MD). Bethesda (MD): Federal Highway Administration, 1999Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    McCann B, DeLille B. Mean streets 2000: pedestrian safety, health and federal transportation spending. Columbia (SC): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2000Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Andersen LB, Schnohr P, Schroll M, et al. All-cause mortality associated with physical activity during leisure time, work, sports, and cycling to work. Arch Intern Med 2000; 160: 1621–8PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Hayashi T, Tsumura K, Suematsu C, et al. Walking to work and the risk for hypertension in men: the Osaka health survey. Ann Intern Med 1999; 130: 21–6Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Vuori IM, Oja P, Paronen O. Physically active commuting to work: testing its potential for exercise promotion. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1994; 26 (7): 844–50PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Oja P, Vuori I, Paronen O. Daily walking and cycling to work: their utility as health-enhancing physical activity. Patient Educ Couns 1998; 33 Suppl. 1: S87–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Morris JN, Hardman AE. Walking to health. Sports Med 1997; 5: 306–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Blair S, Clark D, Cureon K, et al. Exercise and fitness in childhood: implications for a lifetime of health. In: Gisolfi C, Lamb D, editors. Perspectives in exercise science and sports medicine: youth, exercise and sport. Indianapolis (IN): Benchmark Press, 1988: 401–30Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Stucky-Ropp R, DiLorenzo T. Determinants of exercise in children. Prev Med 1993; 22: 880–9PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Roberts I. Children and sport: walking to school as future benefits [letter]. BMJ 1996; 312: 1229PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Raitakari OT, Porkka KVK, Taimela S, et al. Effects of persistent physical activity and inactivity on coronary risk factors in children and young adults. Am J Epidemiol 1994; 140 (3): 195–205PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Anderson RE, Crespo CJ, Bartlett SJ, et al. Relationship of physical activity and television watching with body weight and level of fatness among children: results from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. JAMA 1998; 279 (12): 938–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Dietz WH, Gortmaker SL. Do we fatten our children at the television set? Obesity and television viewing in children and adolescents. Pediatrics 1985; 75: 807–12PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Gortmaker SL, Peterson K, Wiecha J, et al. Reducing obesity via a school-based interdisciplinary intervention among youth: planet health. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 1999; 153 (4): 409–18PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Robinson TN. Reducing children’s television viewing to prevent obesity: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA 1999; 282: 1561–7PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Sallis JF, Prochaska JJ, Taylor WC. A review of correlates of physical activity of children and adolescents. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2000; 32 (5): 963–75PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Lee T, Rowe N. Parents’ and children’s perceived risks of the journey to school. Architect Behav 1994; 10 (4): 379–89Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    US Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy people 2010: Conference Edition. Washingon (DC): US Department of Health and Human Services, 2000Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Go For Green. How to organize a walking/cycling school bus. 1st ed. Ottawa (ON): Go For Green, 1999Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Adis International Limited 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catrine Tudor-Locke
    • 1
  • Barbara E. Ainsworth
    • 1
    • 2
  • Barry M. Popkin
    • 3
  1. 1.Prevention Research Center, Norman J. Arnold School of Public HealthUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Exercise ScienceUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA
  3. 3.Department of NutritionUniversity of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA

Personalised recommendations