Spring Forward with Active Living Research Meeting Highlights

Jane WardUse the extra energy and daylight of this springtime of year to help more children walk, hop, skip or bicycle to school. The Active Living Research annual conference, held in February 2013, highlighted research relevant to Safe Routes to School that can help you show the proven benefits of your program.

Two of the session presentations are highlighted below:

Moving Forward: An Assessment of Safe Routes to School Programs in Five States, Orion Stewart, MUP, University of Washington (download presentation)

Stewart et al presented combined results from a five-year collaborative effort on the part of six state Safe Routes to School coordinators (from AL, FL, MS, TX, WI, and WA). This included 569 Safe Routes to School projects involving 1410 schools and 781,000 children. These programs supported approximately 10 percent of students in those states. Final data from 48 projects from five states (no outcome data reported from Alaska) showed significant increases of 45 percent in walking to school, 24 percent in biking to school and 37 percent for active transportation to school overall. Encouragement and education components showed a trend toward greater improvement. The authors highlight the critical importance of measuring outcomes to generate ongoing support for Safe Routes to School funding. Others may find their research framework useful for doing their own outcome studies.

Demographic, Physical Activity, and Route Characteristics Related to School Transportation: An Exploratory Study, Chanam Lee, PhD, Texas A&M University (download presentation)

In this exploratory study, 113 children (average age 9) in the Austin, Texas, school system wore both GPS trackers and accelerometers for 7 days to track their travels to and from school. Researchers found that active travel contributed approximately 33 percent of a child’s daily moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) minutes and had a bigger impact in the more sedentary children. Average Daily MVPA was 34.6 minutes and walkers had 10 minutes more than non-walkers. Using both GPS trackers and acclerometers simultaneously may add a valuable method for quantifying travel to school and MVPA to support impact assessment of interventions designed to promote active travel.

For those unfamiliar with Active Living Research, they are funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to share research on programs and policies that promote daily physical activity for children and families. They have a wealth of resources, including research briefs, PowerPoint presentation and research summaries about Safe Routes to School and related youth programming.

Jane Ward, MD, MPH is our new research advisor, responsible for updating our research section and blogging on research topics.  She completed a career in the US Air Force as a pediatric ophthalmologist with a strong interest in international humanitarian work.  Her lifelong interest in fitness and active living led her to pursue a Masters of Public Health with a focus on Physical Activity and the built environment.  For her MPH internship in the spring of 2012, she bicycled cross- country advocating and fundraising for Safe Routes to School and the League of American Bicyclists Bike Friendly America programs. She is an Assistant Professor at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences and retains close ties with the George Washington University Department of Exercise Science.  She enjoys bicycling for fun and transportation, triathlons, travel and spending time with family and friends on active vacations.