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Demographic, Environmental, Access, and Attitude Factors That Influence Walking to School by Elementary School-Aged Children

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ABSTRACT Background: 

Walking to school has been identified as an activity that contributes to children’s daily exercise requirements. The purpose of this study was to better understand factors that influence walking to school by elementary school–aged children. Methods: 

A sample of 1,897 elementary school–aged children (84% response rate; 3rd-5th graders) throughout Michigan completed the Michigan Safe Routes to School Student Survey. The survey measures environmental, access, and attitudinal perceptions toward school routes and transportation methods. Results: 

Using logistic regression, the results indicate that the odds of walking to school increase the older children are (odds ratio (OR) =  1.80, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.20-2.70) and if students perceive that walking to school saves time (OR = 3.32, 95% CI = 1.44-7.66) or is safe (OR = 2.60, 95% CI = 1.06-6.39). The odds of a student walking to school decrease the farther a student lives from his or her school (OR = 0.11, 95% CI = 0.04-0.37), if his or her parents have a car (OR = 0.07, 95% CI = 0.02-0.22), and if the student has access to a school bus (OR = 0.07, 95% CI = 0.03-0.18). These factors are significant (p < .05) predictors of walking to school after controlling for other demographic, environmental, access, and attitude factors. Conclusions: 

The study results support research indicating that environmental and access factors influence whether elementary school–aged children walk to school. In addition, when children perceive walking to school to be convenient (ie, saves time), their odds of walking to school increase. Future school- and community-based programs promoting walking to school should continue to focus on making walking to school not only safer, but also more convenient.
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Keywords: active transportation; elementary school-aged children; environment; transportation access; walking attitudes

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Associate Professor, ( ), Michigan State University, Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies, 131 Natural Resources Building, East Lansing, MI 48824., Email: [email protected]

Publication date: June 1, 2009

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