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Kate A. Heelan, Bryce M. Abbey, Joseph E. Donnelly, Matthew S. Mayo and Gregory J. Welk

Background:

Walking to and from school has potential to increase daily physical activity among children.

Methods:

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.

Results:

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.

Conclusion:

This study suggests a WSB intervention may increase frequency of walking to school and establishes a link with increased daily physical activity.