Active commuting from youth to adulthood and as a predictor of physical activity in early midlife: the young Finns study

Prev Med. 2014 Feb;59:5-11. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2013.10.019. Epub 2013 Nov 4.


Objective: The aims of the study were to describe the stability of active commuting (AC) behavior (i.e., walking and cycling) over 27years and examine the relationship between AC and physical activity (PA) from youth to early midlife.

Methods: The mode and distance of travel were assessed using a self-reported questionnaire at five consecutive measurements between 1980 and 2007, when 2072 individuals were followed up from youth (9-18years) to adulthood (30-45years). PA was also measured using a questionnaire.

Results: The prevalence of AC declined sharply with age, particularly after 12years, while AC distances to work or place of study increased substantially. AC was concurrently and prospectively associated with PA in both men and women. Maintained AC, whether walking or cycling and short or long distances, positively predicted adult PA over time. Compared with persistently passive commuters, persistently active commuters had higher adult PA after adjustment for potential covariates. Increasing AC was independently associated with high adult PA, particularly in young adulthood.

Conclusions: Walking and cycling to school/work should be encouraged, as regular AC is associated with higher levels of PA over 27years of follow-up, and thus, may contribute to a healthy and active lifestyle through the various stages of life-course.

Keywords: Active commuting; Adulthood; Cycling; Physical activity; Stability; Walking; Youth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Bicycling / physiology
  • Bicycling / statistics & numerical data*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Self Report
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Class
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Transportation / methods*
  • Walking / physiology
  • Walking / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult