Increasing children's physical activity: Individual, social, and environmental factors associated with walking to and from school
Trapp, G. S. A., Giles-Corti, B., Christian, H. E., Bulsara, M., Timperio, A. F., McCormack, G. R., et al. (2011). Increasing children's physical activity: Individual, social, and environmental factors associated with walking to and from school. Health Education and Behavior, Online First. doi:10.1177/1090198111423272
Background: Efforts to increase the prevalence of children’s active school transport require evidence to inform the development of comprehensive interventions. This study used a multilevel ecological framework to investigate individual, social, and environmental factors associated with walking to and from school among elementary school-aged children, stratified by gender.
Method: Boys aged 10 to 13 years (n = 617) and girls aged 9 to 13 years (n = 681) attending 25 Australian primary schools located in high or low walkable neighborhoods completed a 1-week travel diary and a parent/child questionnaire on travel habits and attitudes.
Results: Boys were more likely (odds ratio [OR] = 3.37; p < .05) to walk if their school neighborhood had high connectivity and low traffic and less likely to walk if they had to cross a busy road (OR = 0.49; p < .05). For girls, confidence in their ability to walk to or from school without an adult (OR = 2.03), school encouragement (OR = 2.43), scheduling commitments (OR = 0.41), and parent-perceived convenience of driving (OR = 0.24) were significantly associated (p < .05) with walking. Irrespective of gender and proximity to school, child-perceived convenience of walking (boys OR = 2.17 and girls OR = 1.84) and preference to walk to school (child perceived, boys OR = 5.57, girls OR = 1.84 and parent perceived, boys OR = 2.82, girls OR = 1.90) were consistently associated (p < .05) with walking to and from school.
Conclusion: Although there are gender differences in factors influencing children walking to and from school, proximity to school, the safety of the route, and family time constraints are consistent correlates. These need to be addressed if more children are to be encouraged to walk to and from school.