Media Releases

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:

April Kemick
Media Rela­tions Offi­cer

Guy Faulkn­er
Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor
Fac­ul­ty of Phys­i­cal Edu­ca­tion and Health
Work: 416–946-7949
Cell: 416–433-4674