Driving Down Daily Step Counts: The Impact of Being Driven to School on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior

in Pediatric Exercise Science
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  • 1 University of Western Australia
  • | 2 University of Melbourne
  • | 3 Deakin University
  • | 4 University of Calgary
  • | 5 University of Notre Dame
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This study investigated whether being driven to school was associated with lower weekday and weekend step counts, less active out-of-school leisure pursuits, and more sedentary behavior. Boys aged 10–13 years (n = 384) and girls aged 9–13 years (n = 500) attending 25 Australian primary schools wore a pedometer and completed a travel diary for one week. Parents and children completed surveys capturing leisure activity, screen time, and sociodemographics. Commute distance was objectively measured. Car travel was the most frequent mode of school transportation (boys: 51%, girls: 58%). After adjustment (sociodemographics, commute distance, and school clustering) children who were driven recorded fewer weekday steps than those who walked (girls: −1,393 steps p < .001, boys: −1,569 steps, p = .009) and participated in fewer active leisure activities (girls only: p = .043). There were no differences in weekend steps or screen time. Being driven to and from school is associated with less weekday pedometer-determined physical activity in 9- to 13-year-old elementary-school children. Encouraging children, especially girls, to walk to and from school (even for part of the way for those living further distances) could protect the health and well-being of those children who are insufficiently active.

Trapp, Christian, and Villanueva are with the Centre for the Built Environment and Health, University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia. Giles-Corti is with the School of Population Health, University of Melbourne, Perth, Western Australia. Timperio is with the Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, Deakin University, Perth, Western Australia. McCormack is with the Population Health Intervention Research Centre, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta. Bulsara is with the Institute of Health and Rehabilitation, University of Notre Dame, Fremantle, Western Australia.