Longitudinal changes in active transportation to school in Canadian children aged 6 through 16 years

Author(s): Pabayo R, Gauvin L, Barnett TA


Background: Concern has been raised regarding the increased prevalence of physical inactivity among children. Active transportation, such as walking and cycling to school, is an opportunity for children to be physically active.

Objective: To identify the sociodemographic predictors of active transportation to schools across time among school-aged children participating in the Canadian National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY).

Methods: The sample included 7690 school-aged children attending public schools who were drawn from cycle 2 (1996 and 1997) of the Canadian NLSCY. Data were collected through interviews with the person most knowledgeable about the child. Parents were asked how their child usually gets to school. Responses were dichotomized into active (walking or bicycling) or inactive (school bus, public transit, is driven, or multiple) modes. Using 3 waves of data from the Canadian NLSCY (1996-2001), we estimated the effect of sociodemographic factors on the likelihood of active transportation to school across time using random-effects models.

Results: Longitudinal analyses indicated that as children aged, the likelihood of using active transportation to school increased, peaked at the age of 10 years, and then decreased. Urban settings (odds ratio [OR]: 3.66 [95% confidence interval (CI): 3.23-4.15]), households with inadequate income (OR: 1.21 [95% CI: 1.06-1.38]), living with 1 parent (OR: 1.46 [95% CI: 1.29-1.65]), and having an older sibling living at home (OR: 1.14 [95% CI: 1.04-1.25]) were significant predictors of active transportation to school at baseline and carried through across time.

Conclusions: Understanding the factors that influence active transportation may support its adoption by children, which in turn may contribute to meeting physical activity guidelines.

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