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Active commuting to and from school and BMI in elementary school children–preliminary data


Heelan, Kate A.; Donnelly, Joseph E.; Jacobsen, D. J.; Mayo, Matthew S.; Washburn, R. A.; & Greene, J. Leon (2005). Active commuting to and from school and BMI in elementary school children–preliminary data. Child: Care, Health and Development, 31(3), 341-349.



Background United States National Health Objectives include increasing the proportion of trips made by walking to and from school for children who live within 1.6 km to 50%. The purpose of this objective is to increase the level of physical activity among children. However, the impact of walking, bicycling or skating (active commuting) to and from school on the prevalence of overweight is unknown.

Methods Body mass index (BMI) was measured for 320 children (age 10.2 ± 0.7 years) in September. Over 5 months, an active commuting index (SI) and daily physical activity were estimated via questionnaire. In April, BMI and body fat were measured.

Results A significant positive association was found between April BMI and SI adjusting for September BMI (partial r = 0.03, P < 0.05). Positive associations were found between SI and physical activity before school (r = 0.17, P < 0.05) and daily moderate intensity physical activity (r = 0.13, P < 0.05). There were no significant association between SI and BF (P > 0.05).

Conclusions This preliminary data suggests that active commuting does not appear to provide sufficient amounts of physical activity to attenuate BMI; however, it may contribute to the attainment of physical activity recommendations. Future research is needed to objectively measure the impact of active commuting on the prevalence of overweight.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Child: Care, Health and Development


Heelan, Kate A.
Donnelly, Joseph E.
Jacobsen, D. J.
Mayo, Matthew S.
Washburn, R. A.
Greene, J. Leon