The transition from primary to secondary school is a major life event associated with large decreases in physical activity levels. Cross-sectional studies also suggest that secondary school students are less likely to engage in active school transport (AST; e.g. walking and cycling to/from school). To our knowledge, no longitudinal study has previously examined the correlates of AST immediately before and after the school transition. This pilot-study assessed: 1) the concordance between child- and parent-perceived barriers to AST (with Spearman correlations); 2) the associations of AST with child- and parent-perceived barriers to AST, parental neighborhood selection factors and socio-demographic characteristics (using Fisher’s exact test). Participants were recruited in four K-6 schools (where children are required to change school after grade 6) located in census tracts with varying population density in Ottawa (Canada). All assessments were done at baseline and follow-up with respectively 49 and 29 participants. Substantial concordance was found between child- and parent-perceived barriers to AST at baseline, but not at follow-up; this might reflect the novelty of the route and the secondary school environment. Distance between home and school was the strongest barrier to AST while road safety concerns and the perception of having too much stuff to carry were also important barriers to AST. Children were more likely to engage in AST when their parents reported that they chose their neighborhood so that their children could easily walk or bike to school; thus future studies should take parental neighborhood selection into account. These findings should contribute to inform future research informing the development of policies and interventions to promote AST.
Key Take Away Points
- This is the first longitudinal study to examine the correlates of active school transport immediately before and after the transition from primary to secondary school.
- Child- and parent-perceived barriers to active school transport were concordant in grade 6, but not in grade 7.
- Distance between home and school was the strongest barrier to active school transport at both time points.
- Parental neighborhood selection was associated with children's travel mode.
Richard Larouche is a postdoctoral fellow with the Healthy Active Living and Obesity (HALO) research group at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. His research focuses primarily on two main areas: 1) the health-related outcomes of active school transport in children and youth and 2) the correlates of active school transport and physical activity from a social-ecological perspective.
Dr. Guy Faulkner is a professor at the University of Toronto in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education. He has published extensively in the fields of active school transport, mental health impacts of physical activity, exercise psychology and smoking cessation. He is Co-editor in Chief of the Mental Health and Physical Activity journal.
Dr. Mark Tremblay is the Director of the HALO group and he his also a professor at the University of Ottawa Department of Pediatrics with a cross-appointment in the School of Human Kinetics. He his the Chief Scientific Officer of Active Healthy Kids Canada and has led the publication of the new Canadian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior Guidelines. Dr. Tremblay has over 200 peer-reviewed publications and has given over 450 conference presentations.
We would like to thank the participants for their involvement in the study. Funding was provided by the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute. Dr. Larouche held a Frederick Banting and Charles Best Doctoral Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and an Excellence Scholarship from the University of Ottawa during data collection.
Larouche, Richard; Faulkner, Guy; and Tremblay, Mark S.
"Correlates of Active School Transport Immediately Before and After the Transition from Primary to Secondary School: A Pilot-Study,"
Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children at Risk:
2, Article 4.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.library.tmc.edu/childrenatrisk/vol4/iss2/4
Responses to this Article:
Billie Giles-Corti, Increasing Young People’s Active Modes of Transport: An Urgent Review of the Child-friendliness of Multi-sector Policies Required (December 2013)