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      Environmental determinants of active travel in youth: A review and framework for future research

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          Abstract

          Background

          Many youth fail to meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity. Walking and cycling, forms of active travel, have the potential to contribute significantly towards overall physical activity levels. Recent research examining the associations between physical activity and the environment has shown that environmental factors play a role in determining behaviour in children and adolescents. However, links between the environment and active travel have received less attention.

          Methods

          Twenty four studies were identified which examined the associations between the environment (perceived or objectively measured) and active travel among youth aged 5–18 years. Findings were categorised according to the location of the environmental measure examined; attributes of the neighbourhood, destination and the route between home and destination.

          Results

          Results from the reviewed studies indicated that youth active travel is positively associated with social interactions, facilities to assist active travel and urban form in the neighbourhood as well as shorter route length and road safety en-route. A conceptual framework is presented which highlights the associations between active travel behaviours and environmental factors, drawing upon both existing and hypothesised relationships.

          Conclusion

          We provide a review of the available literature and present a novel theoretical framework that integrates the environment into the wider decision making process around travel choices for children and adolescents. Further work should explore associations where gaps in understanding have been identified, and account for the main moderators of behaviour so hypothesised associations can be confirmed.

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          Most cited references59

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          Health-enhancing physical activity and sedentary behaviour in children and adolescents.

          We provide a wide-ranging review of health-related physical activity in children and adolescents using a behavioural epidemiology framework. In contrast to many other reviews, we highlight issues associated with true sedentary behaviours alongside physically active behaviours. Specifically, we review the evidence concerning the links between physical activity and cardiovascular disease, overweight and obesity, psychosocial measures, type II diabetes, and skeletal health. Although the evidence is unconvincing at times, several factors lead to the conclusion that promoting physical activity in youth is desirable. A review of the prevalence of physical activity and sedentary behaviours shows that many young people are active, but this declines with age. A substantial number are not adequately active for health benefits and current trends in juvenile obesity are a cause for concern. Prevalence data on sedentary behaviours are less extensive but suggest that total media use by young people has not changed greatly in recent years. Most children and adolescents do not exceed recommended daily hours of TV viewing. Physical activity is unrelated to TV viewing. We also identified the key determinants of physical activity in this age group, highlighting demographic, biological, psychological, behavioural, social and environmental determinants. Interventions were considered for school, family and community environments. Finally, policy recommendations are offered for the education, governmental, sport and recreation, health, and mass media sectors.
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            Do attributes in the physical environment influence children's physical activity? A review of the literature

            Background Many youth today are physically inactive. Recent attention linking the physical or built environment to physical activity in adults suggests an investigation into the relationship between the built environment and physical activity in children could guide appropriate intervention strategies. Method Thirty three quantitative studies that assessed associations between the physical environment (perceived or objectively measured) and physical activity among children (ages 3 to 18-years) and fulfilled selection criteria were reviewed. Findings were categorized and discussed according to three dimensions of the physical environment including recreational infrastructure, transport infrastructure, and local conditions. Results Results across the various studies showed that children's participation in physical activity is positively associated with publicly provided recreational infrastructure (access to recreational facilities and schools) and transport infrastructure (presence of sidewalks and controlled intersections, access to destinations and public transportation). At the same time, transport infrastructure (number of roads to cross and traffic density/speed) and local conditions (crime, area deprivation) are negatively associated with children's participation in physical activity. Conclusion Results highlight links between the physical environment and children's physical activity. Additional research using a transdisciplinary approach and assessing moderating and mediating variables is necessary to appropriately inform policy efforts.
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              Personal, family, social, and environmental correlates of active commuting to school.

              Active commuting to school may be an important opportunity for children to accumulate adequate physical activity for improved cardiovascular risk factors, enhanced bone health, and psychosocial well-being. The purpose of this study was to examine personal, family, social, and environmental correlates of active commuting to school among children. Cross-sectional study of 235 children aged 5 to 6 years and 677 children aged 10 to 12 years from 19 elementary schools in Melbourne, Australia. Self-administered questionnaires were completed by parents, and the older children. The shortest possible routes to school were examined using a geographic information system. Among both age groups, negative correlates of active commuting to school included parental perception of few other children in the neighborhood and no lights or crossings for their child to use, and an objectively assessed busy road barrier en route to school. In younger children, an objectively assessed steep incline en route to school was negatively associated with walking or cycling to school. Good connectivity en route to school was negatively associated with walking or cycling to school among older children. Among both age groups, children were more likely to actively commute to school if their route was <800 meters. There were no associations with perceived energy levels or enjoyment of physical activity, weight status, or family factors. For children, creating child-friendly communities and providing skills to safely negotiate the environment may be important. Environmental correlates of active transport in children and adults may differ and warrant further investigation.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act
                The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
                BioMed Central
                1479-5868
                2008
                23 June 2008
                : 5
                : 34
                Affiliations
                [1 ]University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
                [2 ]Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit, Cambridge, UK
                Article
                1479-5868-5-34
                10.1186/1479-5868-5-34
                2483993
                18573196
                aeed5176-aa1d-45d9-936b-278a3cfc841e
                Copyright © 2008 Panter et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                History
                : 20 December 2007
                : 23 June 2008
                Categories
                Review

                Nutrition & Dietetics
                Nutrition & Dietetics

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