Background: To better understand the health benefits of promoting active travel, it is important to understand the relationship between a change in active travel and changes in recreational and total physical activity.
Methods: These analyses, carried out in April 2012, use longitudinal data from 1628 adult respondents (mean age 54 years; 47% male) in the UK-based iConnect study. Travel and recreational physical activity were measured using detailed seven-day recall instruments. Adjusted linear regression models were fitted with change in active travel defined as 'decreased' (<-15 min/week), 'maintained' (± 15 min/week) or 'increased' (>15 min/week) as the primary exposure variable and changes in (a) recreational and (b) total physical activity (min/week) as the primary outcome variables.
Results: Active travel increased in 32% (n=529), was maintained in 33% (n=534) and decreased in 35% (n=565) of respondents. Recreational physical activity decreased in all groups but this decrease was not greater in those whose active travel increased. Conversely, changes in active travel were associated with commensurate changes in total physical activity. Compared with those whose active travel remained unchanged, total physical activity decreased by 176.9 min/week in those whose active travel had decreased (adjusted regression coefficient -154.9, 95% CI -195.3 to -114.5) and was 112.2 min/week greater among those whose active travel had increased (adjusted regression coefficient 135.1, 95% CI 94.3 to 175.9).
Conclusion: An increase in active travel was associated with a commensurate increase in total physical activity and not a decrease in recreational physical activity.