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Neighbourhood perceptions and active commuting to school amongst adolescent boys and girls

Nelson, Norah M. and Woods, C. (2010) Neighbourhood perceptions and active commuting to school amongst adolescent boys and girls. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 7 (2). pp. 257-266. ISSN 1543-3080

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Active commuting (AC) to school can increase daily minutes of physical activity yet research is lacking on its determinants. This study examined perceptions of the physical environment as a correlate of AC among adolescents. Cross-sectional data were collected from 1143 males and 1016 females (mean age 16.04 +/- 0.66) who lived within 2.5 miles of their school. Participants' self-reported active (walk or cycle) or inactive (car, bus, or train) mode of travel to school and perceptions of their neighborhood environment. Bivariate logistic regression examined perceived environmental features associated with active versus inactive modes, adjusted for sociodemographic factors. Significant variables were examined in multivariate models, adjusted for population density and distance. Positive correlates of AC included well-lit streets, land-use-mix diversity, access to shops/public transport, the presence of public parks/bike lanes, and accessible well-maintained paths. Connectivity was unrelated to mode choice. In multivariate analyses, land-use-mix diversity, and the perceived presence of public parks remained significant among males, whereas excess traffic speed, shops within walking distance, and paths separate from the road remained significant among females. Environmental characteristics were associated with active commuting to school, however research must address methodological issues before making recommendations for intervention.