Objective: To assess the association between active travel to school and physical activity (PA) in a large population-based sample of 11-year old children.
Method: Cross-sectional analyses using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (Bristol, UK), collected in 2002-2004. The analyses include all children providing valid data on objectively measured PA (Actigraph accelerometer), and having parent-proxy reported data on travel mode (walk, cycle, public transport, car) and distance to school (N=4688).
Results: 43.5% of children regularly walked or cycled to school (i.e. on every or most days). Compared with car travelers, walking to school was associated with 5.98 (95%CI: 3.82-8.14) more minutes of moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) on weekdays in those living 0.5-1 miles from school, and with 9.77 (95%CI: 7.47-12.06) more minutes in those living at 1-5 miles. This equates to 24.6 to 40.2% of the average daily minutes of MVPA. Only modest differences were observed in those living <0.5 mile from school.
Conclusion: Children who regularly walk to school are more active during the week than those travelling by car, especially if the distance is >0.5 mile. Increasing participation in active travel might be a useful part of an overall strategy to increase population PA.