Study to examine link between school transportation and childhood weight, activity levels
September 7, 2010
TORONTO, ON – Is taking the school bus a factor in childhood weight gain? Does hitching a ride with Mom or Dad plunge a child’s overall activity level? How does walking or cycling to school impact a child’s body weight?
When kids return to GTA schools this September, one UofT professor will be taking a closer look at how their mode of transportation affects their body weight and overall activity level.
“Over the past 20 years, we’ve seen sharp declines in the number of children walking and cycling to school. In that same period, we’ve also seen rising rates of childhood obesity and inactivity,” says Guy Faulkner, associate professor in the Faculty of Physical Education and Health. “We’re trying to find out if there is a link between transportation to and from school and a child’s overall weight and activity levels.”
This fall, Faulkner’s team will study approximately 400 households with school-age children in different Toronto neighbourhoods. Each child will wear an accelerometer, which measures their overall energy expenditure and activity level. Their weight will be monitored and their parents will be surveyed about their child’s chosen mode of transportation to school. They’ll also be asked about how their neighbourhood environment – for example, urban versus suburban – impacts their decision to have their child walk, drive, take a school bus or cycle to school.
Results of the fall study will be added to a separate sample of 400 households in different Toronto neighbourhoods last spring, bringing total participation to 800 GTA households.
The importance of the study is two-fold, says Faulkner. First, it will clarify how parents decide their child’s mode of transportation to and from school and determine the types of factors – environmental, neighbourhood and safety – that impact those decisions. Secondly, it will determine whether transportation choices are a factor in a child’s body weight and activity level.
“Childhood obesity and inactivity are at alarming levels,” says Faulkner. “This is the type of information we need as educators, parents and citizens to start making informed decisions to protect our kids.”
For more information on the study, please contact:
Media Relations Officer
Faculty of Physical Education and Health