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Active Travel to School and Cardiovascular Fitness in Danish Children and Adolescents


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: October 2006 - Volume 38 - Issue 10 - p 1724-1731
doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000229570.02037.1d
BASIC SCIENCES: Epidemiology

Purpose: Active travel to school provides an opportunity for daily physical activity. Previous studies have shown that walking and cycling to school are associated with higher physical activity levels. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether the way that children and adolescents travel to school is associated with level of cardiovascular fitness.

Methods: Participants were recruited via a proportional, two-stage cluster sample of schools (N = 25) in the region of Odense, Denmark as part of the European Youth Heart Study (EYHS). Nine hundred nineteen participants (529 children, age 9.7 ± 0.5 yr; 390 adolescents, age 15.5 ± 0.4 yr) completed a maximal cycle ergometer test to assess cardiorespiratory fitness (Wmax·kg−1). Mode of travel to school was investigated by questionnaire. Physical activity was measured in 531 participants using an accelerometer. Regression analyses with robust standard errors and adjustment for confounders (gender, age, body composition (skinfolds), pubertal status, and physical activity) and the cluster sampling procedure were used to compare fitness levels for different travel modes. Multinomial logistic regression was applied to assess the odds for belonging to quartiles of fitness.

Results: Children and adolescents who cycled to school were significantly more fit than those who walked or traveled by motorized transport and were nearly five times as likely (OR 4.8; 95% CI 2.8-8.4) to be in the top quartile of fitness.

Conclusion: Cycling to school may contribute to higher cardiovascular fitness in young people.

1Department of Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences, University of Bristol, UNITED KINGDOM; 2Institute of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, DENMARK; and 3Department of Sports Medicine, Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, Oslo, NORWAY

Address for correspondence: Ashley Cooper, Ph.D., University of Bristol, Department of Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences, Centre for Sport, Exercise and Health, Tyndall Avenue, Bristol, BS8 1TP, UK; E-mail:

Submitted for publication December 2005.

Accepted for publication May 2006.

©2006The American College of Sports Medicine