Active travelling to school is not associated with increased total daily physical activity levels, or reduced obesity and cardiovascular/pulmonary health parameters in 10–12-year olds: a cross-sectional cohort study
Childhood obesity has increased enormously. Several lifestyle factors have been implicated, including decreased physical activity, partially involving a decline in active travel to school. We aimed to establish the association between school transport mode and physical activity levels of primary 6 and 7 children (aged 10–12). Secondary outcomes were body mass index standard deviation scores, blood pressure levels and lung function. A cross-sectional study was conducted with a total number of 432 children from three primary schools in North East Scotland. Actigraph accelerometers were used to provide objective measures of physical activity. Ninety-two children in primary 6 and 90 children in primary 7 (40 in common) had adequate data. Modes of transport to school were assessed by a questionnaire. Two hundred and seventeen children in primary 6 and one hundred and sixty-five in primary 7 returned adequate questionnaires. Children who used active transport modes for >70% of their journeys to school over the week were coded as active travellers and <30% were coded as passive travellers. All children also had height, weight, blood pressure levels and lung function measured. Children who lived further away from school, and in more expensive properties were more likely to travel passively to school. Actively commuting children (70% walking) had significantly higher activity levels than passive commuters during the 30 min that encompassed their journey to and from school. However, there were no significant differences between active and passive school travellers in total daily physical activity, BMI SDS, and both systolic and diastolic blood pressure and lung function. There was no evidence that more days of active travel to school had a significant influence on total physical activity, obesity and related health parameters. Public health interventions promoting active travel to school may have limited success in quelling the childhood obesity epidemic.