Active Commuting to School
- 1.4k Downloads
The assessment and promotion of childrens’ healthful physical activity is important: (i) to combat the international obesity epidemic that extends to childhood; and (ii) to establish an early habit of lifestyle physical activity that can be sustained into adolescence and adulthood. The primary focus of both assessment and promotion efforts has been on in-school physical education classes and, to a lesser extent, out-of-school structured exercise, sport and play. A potential source of continuous moderate activity, active commuting to school by means of walking or by bicycle, has been largely ignored in surveys of physical activity. Suggestive evidence of steep declines in the amount of childrens’ destination walking can be gleaned from national transportation surveys. At the same time, there has been a dramatic increase in the reported use of motorised vehicles, including the use for chauffeuring children. There is very little evidence to support or refute active commuting to school as an important source of childrens’ physical activity; however, this is largely because it has been overlooked in the stampede to assess time in more vigorous activities.
The promotion of active commuting to school must be considered in the context of parents’ real and perceived concerns for their children’s personal and pedestrian safety. We certainly do not have a full understanding at this time of all the factors related to decisions about transportation mode, whether by child, parent, community, or school. Such information is necessary if successful and sustainable interventions can be implemented, important transport policy decisions can be made, and community and school designs can be modified. Practice rarely waits for research, however, and there are numerous examples of innovative programming, policies and environmental designs occurring internationally that can serve as natural experiments for enterprising researchers willing to push the envelope of our understanding of active commuting and childrens’ physical activity. Since we know so little, there is much to learn.
KeywordsPhysical Activity Transportation Mode Transport Policy Physical Education Class Independent Mobility
The authors are indebted to the continued support of the Scientific Affairs Division of Mars, Inc. and the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) [R01-HD30880 and R01-HD38700] in the preparation of this manuscript.
- 1.Biddle S, Cavill N, Sallis J. Policy framework for young people and health-enhancing physical activity. In: Biddle S, Cavill N, Sallis J, editors. Young and active. London: Health Education Authority, 1998Google Scholar
- 3.Wang Y, Monteiro C, Popkin BM. Obesity trends in older children and adolescents. Am J Clin Nutr. In pressGoogle Scholar
- 4.Dollman J, Olds T, Norton K, et al. The evolution of fitness and fatness in 10–11 year old Australian schoolchildren: changes in distributional characteristics between 1985 and 1997. Pediatr Exp Sci 1999; 11 (2): 108–21Google Scholar
- 8.Welk GJ, Corbin CB, Dale D. Measurement issues in the assessment of physical activity in children. Res Q Exerc Sport 2000; 71 Suppl. 2: 59–73Google Scholar
- 9.Hillman M, editor. Children, transport, and the quality of life. London: Policies Studies Institute, 1993Google Scholar
- 11.US Department of Transportation. Proceedings from the Nationwide Personal Transporation Survey Symposium; 1997 Oct 29–31; Bethesda (MD). Bethesda (MD): Federal Highway Administration, 1999Google Scholar
- 12.McCann B, DeLille B. Mean streets 2000: pedestrian safety, health and federal transportation spending. Columbia (SC): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2000Google Scholar
- 14.Hayashi T, Tsumura K, Suematsu C, et al. Walking to work and the risk for hypertension in men: the Osaka health survey. Ann Intern Med 1999; 130: 21–6Google Scholar
- 18.Blair S, Clark D, Cureon K, et al. Exercise and fitness in childhood: implications for a lifetime of health. In: Gisolfi C, Lamb D, editors. Perspectives in exercise science and sports medicine: youth, exercise and sport. Indianapolis (IN): Benchmark Press, 1988: 401–30Google Scholar
- 27.Lee T, Rowe N. Parents’ and children’s perceived risks of the journey to school. Architect Behav 1994; 10 (4): 379–89Google Scholar
- 28.US Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy people 2010: Conference Edition. Washingon (DC): US Department of Health and Human Services, 2000Google Scholar
- 29.Go For Green. How to organize a walking/cycling school bus. 1st ed. Ottawa (ON): Go For Green, 1999Google Scholar