Share this article on:

Changes in Physical Activity from Walking to School: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial9269:30 AM – 9:45 AM

Sirard, John R.; Alhassan, Sofiya; Robinson, Thomas N.

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: May 2006 - Volume 38 - Issue 5 - p S82
Presidential Closing Remarks 12:05 PM – 12:15 PM: Immediately Following President's Lectures ROOM: Ballroom 2/3 and Ballroom 1: E-15 Free Communication/Slide – Children: Physical Activity and Health: FRIDAY, JUNE 2, 2006 8:00 AM – 10:00 AM ROOM: 301

1University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.

2Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA


Walking to school has been suggested as a means of increasing children's physical activity although there are no experimental data to support this claim.

PURPOSE: The purpose of this small pilot study was to determine the effect of walking to school for one week on total daily physical activity and patterns of physical activity in third-fifth grade students.

METHODS: Third-fifth grade students were recruited from one local public elementary school. Following a baseline week of being driven to school, students were randomized to either a walking (WALK; walking school bus; n=5), or control (CON; continue to be driven to school; n=6) group for the second week of the study. Physical activity was measured using ActiGraph accelerometers worn at the waist for 14 days.

RESULTS: No between group differences for any physical activity variables were detected for the baseline week (p>0.05). Average counts·min-1 was 50% greater for the WALK group (1652.03+314.74 counts·min-1) compared to the CON group (664.21+237.88 counts·min-1; Wilcoxon Rank Sum test, p <0.01) during the before school time period of the experimental week. Also, the WALK group spent 31% more time in Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity (MVPA) (59+7%) compared to the CON group (28+9%; Wilcoxon p=0.02). No between group differences were detected for the during school, after school, or evening time periods, or for the overall average weekday counts·min-1 or average weekday percent of time spent in MVPA.

CONCLUSIONS: Compared to students who continued to be driven to school, students that walked to school significantly increased their physical activity levels during the before school time period, and there were no significant compensatory decreases in physical activity during other periods of the day. Although power was limited to detect differences in this small pilot study, total daily activity was not significantly increased in the walk to school group.

© 2006 American College of Sports Medicine