Online Program

Active commuting to school as a strategy to reduce overweight and obesity in youth

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 8:48 a.m. - 9:06 a.m.

Robin DeWeese, PhD, RDN, School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Punam Ohri-Vachaspati, PhD, RD, School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
BACKGROUND: Almost a third of US children are overweight or obese and only a small fraction meets physical activity (PA) recommendations. Children who engage in active travel to school (ATS) are more likely to meet PA recommendations. However, only 13% of trips to school were made using ATS in 2009. PURPOSE: To determine whether ATS is associated with children's weight status in low-income urban communities with large Hispanic and black populations. SIGNIFICANCE: If travel time to school can be spent in active transport, the increased energy expenditure may help prevent excessive weight gain among school-age children. METHODOLOGY: A random digit-dial survey of 1400 households collected data about a random 2-18 year-old child in the household. This analysis uses a subsample of 485 school-going children for whom data on ATS and parent-measured heights and weights were available. Locations of households and schools were geocoded to calculate distance between home and school. Multivariate regressions were used to assess associations between ATS and child's weight. RESULTS: 36.6% of children were overweight or obese. 47.2% engaged in ATS. When children were dichotomized as active or nonactive commuters, commuting was not associated with child's weight status. When using total distance traveled using ATS as a continuous variable, distance was inversely associated with child's BMI z-score (OR=-.03, 95% CI: -.06 to -.0006). CONCLUSIONS/RECOMMENDATIONS: Encouraging ATS may be an effective strategy to reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity among students. However, there may be a distance threshold that must be met.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Assess the need for policies that encourage active commuting to school.

Keyword(s): Obesity, Students

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I studied obesity and physical activity as a Master's student in the Exercise and Wellness program at Arizona State University. As a 2nd year PhD student, I have studied policy under the mentorship of Dr. Punam Ohri-Vachaspati, who has extensive research experience in childhood obesity policy.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.