Walking to and from school has potential to increase daily physical activity among children.
A Walking School Bus (WSB) intervention was implemented for 2 years in 2 schools with a third school as a control. The primary aim evaluated school-wide prevalence of walking to school by self-report 6 times (fall, winter, spring). The secondary aims compared objective physical activity levels among a subsample of research participants (intervention [INT] = 201, control [CON] =123) and between frequency of walking to school groups. INT and CON participants wore an accelerometer during 4 time periods to assess daily physical activity and were measured for body mass index (BMI) and body fat each fall and spring.
School-wide prevalence of walking to school frequently (>50% of the time each week) was 27% higher in the WSB schools than in the control school. INT obtained significantly more daily physical activity than CON (78.0 [38.9] vs 60.6 [27.7] min/d, P < .05). In addition, across all schools, frequent walkers obtained 25% more physical activity (P < .05), gained 58% less body fat (P < .05), and attenuated BMI by 50% (P < .05) compared with passive commuters.
This study suggests a WSB intervention may increase frequency of walking to school and establishes a link with increased daily physical activity.
Heelan and Abbey are with the Human Performance Laboratory, University of Nebraska at Kearney. Donnelly is with the Schiefelbusch Life Span Institute, University of Kansas. Mayo is with the Dept of Biostatistics, Kansas University Medical Center. Welk is with the Dept of Health and Human Performance, Iowa State University.