Active school transport, physical activity levels and body weight of children and youth: a systematic review

Prev Med. 2009 Jan;48(1):3-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2008.10.017. Epub 2008 Oct 30.


Objectives: Active school transport (AST) may be an important source of children's physical activity (PA). Innovative solutions that increase PA time for children, without putting added pressure on the school curriculum, merit consideration. Before implementing such solutions, it is important to demonstrate that active school transport is associated with health-related outcomes.

Methods: Following a standardized protocol, we conducted a systematic review of published research to address this question and explore whether children who actively commute to school also have a healthier body weight. Online searches of 5 electronic databases were conducted. Potential studies were screened on the basis of objective measures of physical activity.

Results: Thirteen studies were included in this review. Nine studies demonstrated that children who actively commute to school accumulate significantly more PA and two studies reported that they expended significantly more kilocalories per day. Where studies examined body weight (n=10), only one reported active commuters having a lower body weight.

Conclusions: These studies demonstrate that active school commuters tend to be more physically active overall than passive commuters. However, evidence for the impact of AST in promoting healthy body weights for children and youth is not compelling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Weight*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Schools*
  • Transportation / methods*