The contribution of active travel to children's physical activity levels: cross-sectional results from the ALSPAC study

Prev Med. 2009 Jun;48(6):519-24. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2009.03.002. Epub 2009 Mar 9.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acceleration
  • Bicycling* / physiology
  • Child
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity*
  • Schools*
  • Students*
  • Time Factors
  • Transportation / methods*
  • United Kingdom
  • Walking* / physiology