Active Commuting to School and Association with Physical Activity and Adiposity Among US Youth

A study exploring the association between active commuting and weight, including whether moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) mediates the association between them, found that active commuting to school is associated with greater MVPA and lower adiposity in American youth.

The authors examined active commuting using data on 12 to 19-year-olds from the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, looking at BMI, waist circumference, skin folds and MVPA while controlling for age, gender, race/ethnicity sociodemographics and diet. Active commuting was defined as walking or bicycling to or from school, work or errands in the past 30 days.

Active commuting was inversely associated with BMI z-score and skin folds, and positively associated with daily, and before and after school MVPA. Before and after school MVPA mediated the relationship between active commuting and waist circumference, which were inversely associated but not to a statistically significant degree. There were no differences in the relationship between active commuting and adiposity by age or gender.

The results suggest that if youth spend 30 minutes actively commuting, they gain an average of 4.5 minutes of MVPA each day. The authors recommend longer-term studies on active commuting that control for energy intake and that use objective measures of physical activity.