Purpose: Active school transportation (AST) is an important source of physical activity, but it remains unclear how it varies across seasons and over time from childhood to adolescence. In this longitudinal study, we investigated seasonal variations and changes over time in AST and moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity (MVPA). Methods: Children (N = 932; 55.4% female; 10.6 ± 0.7 year olds at study inception) indicated their usual school travel mode and self-reported their MVPA in the fall, winter and spring for six years (18 survey-cycles). We categorized school travel mode as “active” “mixed” (i.e., combination of active and motorized modes) or “motorized”. We examined seasonal variations and changes in AST (polynomial logistic regression) and in number of days per week accumulating ≥ 60 min of MVPA (linear regression) using generalized linear mixed models accounting for sex, age at baseline, type of urbanization, school, and the repeated measures design. Results: Odds of engaging in AST were lower in the winter (OR = 0.48; 95% CI = 0.38, 0.61) compared to the fall, increased over time (OR = 1.08; 1.05, 1.12), and were greater among boys versus girls (OR = 3.41; 2.18, 5.35) and participants living in urban versus rural areas (OR = 2.90; 1.37, 6.14). Boys reported more MVPA than girls (β = 0.30; 95% CI = 0.22, 0.37). Children reported less MVPA in the winter than in the fall (β = −0.27; −0.44, −0.10). MVPA was higher among children using mixed modes than among motorized travelers (β = 0.27; 0.16, 0.39) and among participants living in urban versus rural areas (β = 0.27; 0.14, 0.39). A significant quadratic term (p < 0.001) indicated that MVPA increased in the first few cycles and declined afterwards. Conclusions: The substantial seasonal differences in AST and MVPA suggest that interventions may need to include a particular focus on winter activities. Our findings also highlight the need for effective interventions to prevent the decline in MVPA.

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Journal of Transport and Health
Department of Psychology

Larouche, R. (Richard), Gunnell, K.E, & Bélanger, M. (Mathieu). (2018). Seasonal variations and changes in school travel mode from childhood to late adolescence: A prospective study in New Brunswick, Canada. Journal of Transport and Health. doi:10.1016/j.jth.2018.08.012