Associations among active transportation, physical activity, and weight status in young adults

Obes Res. 2005 May;13(5):868-75. doi: 10.1038/oby.2005.100.


Objective: To describe prevalence of active, public, and car transit by overweight status and amount of leisure-time physical activity in a nationally representative cohort of ethnically diverse young adults.

Research methods and procedures: Questionnaire data on patterns of transportation were collected from U.S. adolescents enrolled in Wave III (2001) of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (N = 10,771). Measured height and weight data were used to calculate BMI and classify adults by overweight status (BMI > or = 25). Self-reported physical activity data were used to classify adults into those who achieved > or = 5 bouts of weekly moderate-vigorous physical activity and those who did not. Results were stratified by overweight and physical activity status.

Results: The vast majority of young adults used car transit (work, 90.4%; school, 74.7%). A small proportion of young adults used active means of transportation to work (8.1%) and school (26.7%), and fewer used public transportation to work or school (<10%). The proportion of individuals using active transportation was higher among the nonoverweight traveling to work (9.2%) and school (29.7%) and among the more active traveling to work (15.2%) and school (37.0%) relative to the overweight and less active young adults.

Discussion: The vast majority of young adults of all racial/ethnic backgrounds, particularly blacks and Hispanics, did not use active transportation to school and/or work. Active transportation was more common among nonoverweight and more active young adults, of high socioeconomic status, particularly full-time students. Population-level efforts (and environmental supports) to increase non-leisure physical activity, particularly active transportation, are sorely needed as a means of supporting and promoting overall physical activity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Automobiles
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight*
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Transportation / methods*