Research Study Abstract

Individual, socio-cultural and environmental predictors of uptake and maintenance of active commuting in children: longitudinal results from the SPEEDY study

  • Published on July 2013

Britt Johnson, National Heart Foundation Encouraging children to actively commute to school is a public health strategy that helps to incorporate physical activity into daily life.

This paper presents the results of a longitudinal investigation into the individual, socio-cultural and environmental predictors of active commuting to school amongst 9-10 year old children living in Norfolk, UK.

The study utilized self reported and objective measures data of children and parents’, socio-cultural and physical environment characteristics from the UK population-based longitudinal cohort study ‘Sport and Physical activity and Eating behaviour: Environmental determinants in Young people (SPEEDY)’. Multilevel, multiple logistic regression analyses were used to analyse data from 912 children from 92 primary schools.

Children’s travel behaviours were found to be relatively consistent between baseline and the 12 month follow-up, with only 15% reporting changes in modes of travel. Of those children that modified their school travel behaviours, 9.5% changed to commuting ‘by foot’ or ‘by bike’ (active travel), while 5.8% changed to commuting ‘by car’ or ‘by bus or train’ (passive travel). Over 44% of children continued to use active travel, while 40% continued to use passive modes of transport.

The analysis explored factors that were associated with participants changing and maintaining their active travel behaviours. There were statistically significant findings suggesting several important factors, including distance to school (specifically whether they were located within 1 km), whether parents reported that it was inconvenient to take their child to school by car, living in urban areas, parental education levels, and higher levels of safety on the route between home and school. These findings offer useful insights to help identify specific influential factors; however the large range for the confidence intervals indicates that there may be a wide range of variation in the predictive nature of these factors. This may be reflective of the fact that only 9.5% of the children analysed changed to active travel during the study or the limitations of the models tested.

The categorisation of travel by bus and train as passive transport may have also influenced results, as public transport usage is associated with increased walking and cycling. This study offers further understanding and identification of specific socio-cultural and environmental influences on children’s active travel, which is useful in helping to inform programs and policies to encourage walking and cycling school.

Further research is needed to further explore and evaluate specific factors that influence children’s active travel, including perceptions of travel mode convenience, distance to schools, road safety and neighbourhood and route factors.


  • Jenna Panter
  • Kirsten Corder
  • Simon J Griffin
  • Andrew P Jones
  • Esther MF van Sluijs


Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity


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