According to the National Center for Safe Routes to School, of the 31% of children in grades K-8 who lived within 1 mile of school, 35% usually walked or bicycled to school, compared to 89% back in 1969. MacDonald et al found that children living within 0.5 miles of school were 3.93 times more likely to walk or bike to or from school; this figure increases to 1.2 times more likely for children living within 0.5 to 1 mile of school.
This intervention assumes that the other 65% of students who currently do not walk or bike to school engage in walking to school for a full acadmic year (180 days). Due to lack of data on the exact proportion of students who reside varying distances within 1 mile of school, the Calculator uses the middle point of the range, 0.5 miles, walking at a pace of 3.0 miles per hour (Metabolic Equivalent of Task value of 3.3) to estimate caloric impact. It is also assumed that the proportion of students who currently walk to high school is the same as that of K-8 based on the study mentioned above.
The built environment has been cited as key focus for enabling and encouraging children to walk and bike to school. By making the built environment more conducive and safer to active transport to and from school, it can assist in reducing the energy gap by increasing calorics expended through physical activity. State Departments of Transportation receive annual federal funding to implement the Safe Routes to School Program, as part of the federal transportation bill, SAFETEA-LU, adopted on July 29, 2005.
The Safe Routes to School National Partnership has a number of useful resources on issues and data regarding active transport. Many studies have also documented the decline in active transport as a result of urbanization, safety concerns, and distance from school (Bungum, 2009). Nevertheless, some studies have found that active transport can encourage students to be more physically active throughout the day (Wong, 2011).
There are a number of active tranports interventions that try to increase active transport, including the Walking School Bus and Safe Routes to School. Many of the studies reviewed increased the proportion of students engaged in active transport, as well as amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity throughout the day, but many did not include weight measures. However, Rosenberg et al. have also found that while active commuters had lower BMIs and skinfolds, active commuting was not associated with BMI change or overweight status.
* The Average Caloric Impact (ACI) for this intervention is modeled based on published estimates of METs expended during a walk from Ainsworth et al. (2000), as well as average distances to school and populations affected, as described above.
Ainsworth BE, Haskell WL, Whitt MC, Irwin ML, Swartz AM, Strath SJ, O'Brien ML, Bassett Jr. DR, Schmitz KH, Emplaincourt PO, Jacobs Jr. DR, & Leon AR. Compendium of Physical Activities: an update on activity codes and MET intensities. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2000; 32(9 Suppl):S498-504.
Ridley K, Olds TS. Assigning Energy Costs to Activities in Children: A Review and Synthesis. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2008; 40(8):1439–1336.
McDonald NC, Brown AL, Marchetti LM, Pedroso MS. U.S. School Travel, 2009 An Assessment of Trends. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2011 Aug; 41(2):146-151.
National Center for Safe Routes to School. How Children Get to School: School Travel Patterns from 1969 to 2009. Accessed November 12, 2012.
Bungum TJ, Lounsbery M, Moonie S, Gast J. Prevalence and Correlates of Walking and Biking to School Among Adolescents. Journal of Community Health 2009 Apr; 34(2):129-134.
Landsberg B, Plachta-Danielzik S, Much D, Johannsen M, Lange D, Muller MJ. Associations Between Active Commuting to School, Fat Mass and Lifestyle Factors in Adolescents: the Kiel Obesity Prevention Study (KOPS). European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2008 Jun; 62(6):739-747.
Rosenberg DE, Sallis JF, Conway TL, Cain KL, McKenzie TL. Active Transportation to School Over 2 Years in Relation to Weight Status and Physical Activity. Obesity 2006 Oct; 14(10):1771-1776.
Safe Routes to School Guide. The Decline of Walking and Bicycling. N.d. Accessed November 12, 2012.
Safe Routes to School Partnership. Overview of the Federal Safe Routes to School Program. N.d. Accessed November 12, 2012.
Wong BY, Faulkner G, Buliung R, Irving H. Mode Shifting in School Travel Mode: Examining the Preavlence and Correlates of Active School Transport in Ontario, Canada. BMC Public Health 2011 Aug; 11:618.