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Background:

Research has demonstrated that adolescents who actively commute have higher levels of physical activity (PA), which have declined precipitously over the past 30 years. The purpose of this study was to describe the prevalence of active commuting to school; and to identify barriers associated with active commuting.

Methods:

A cross-sectional study was conducted with 1672 students (46.8% boys and 53.2% girls) from 11 to 17 years of age in Caxias do Sul/RS, Brazil. The students were asked to answer questionnaires about active transport, PA, and sedentary behaviors. They also completed a cardiovascular fitness test and body composition measurements. The study used a multivariate Poisson regression analysis.

Results:

A total of 62.5% of students were observed to actively commute and the prevalence ratio (PR) of not actively commuting was associated with the type of school (Private: 2.41; 1.47, 3.95) and the time spent on commuting (>20 min: 1.93; 1.23, 3.03). The associated barriers to passive commuting were distance (3.02; 1.95, 4.71), crime/ danger (2.65; 1.82, 3.85), and traffic (1.75; 1.19, 2.58).

Conclusions:

This study showed that environmental variables were strongly associated with active commuting. However, no alterations in body composition or other behavioral variables were observed after adjustment.

Silva and Martins are with the Dept of Physical Education, Federal University of Paraíba, João Pessoa, Brazil. Vasques and Lopes are with the Dept of Physical Education, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Florianópolis, Brazil. Williams is with the Dept of Kinesiology, California State University Long Beach, CA.