Omission of active commuting to school and the prevalence of children's health-related physical activity levels: the Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Study

C Tudor-Locke, L J Neff, B E Ainsworth, C L Addy, B M Popkin
Child: Care, Health and Development 2002, 28 (6): 507-12

BACKGROUND: Active commuting to school by walking or bicycle is a potential source of continuous moderate activity for children that has been largely ignored in surveys of physical activity. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the analytical impact of omitting active commuting to school (walking or bicycling) on conclusions about children's physical activity levels.

METHODS: The Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Study (RLMS) is the first nationally representative household survey in the Russian Federation. More than 6400 households from all regions of Russia were surveyed eight times between 1992 and 1998. Analysis was conducted using physical activity data (school physical education classes, out-of-school active pursuits and active commuting to school) obtained by parent-proxy on 1094 (572 boys, 522 girls) school-aged Russian children (mean age 10.2 +/- 1.9 years) participating in the November 1998 round of the RLMS. Data were examined according to prevalence of achievement of health-related physical activity guidelines, active commuting to school behaviours included then omitted.

RESULTS: Omitting active commuting to school resulted in a statistically significant decrease in the prevalence of achievement of health-related guidelines from 12% to 20%, similar for both genders. Likewise, the prevalence of sedentarism (defined as not meeting any of the guidelines) was increased by 17-22%.

CONCLUSIONS: The present findings suggest that, in order to avoid misclassification bias of children's physical activity levels, it is necessary to include questions about mode of commuting to school. The findings also carry practice implications: the commonplace need to get to and from school may be a missed opportunity for children's health-related physical activity in motorized societies.

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