The tracking of active travel and its relationship with body composition in UK adolescents

Catherine L Falconer, Sam D Leary, Angie S Page, Ashley R Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)
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To examine the tracking of active travel through adolescence, and its association with body mass index (BMI) and fat mass at age 17 in a UK cohort.

We analysed data collected from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). The analyses include all participants with self-reported travel mode to school at ages 12, 14 and 16 years, and measured height, weight and body composition at age 17 (n=2,026). Tracking coefficients were calculated for individual travel behaviours (including walking and cycling) through adolescence using Generalised Estimating Equations. Linear regression analyses examined associations between travel pattern (consistently passive, consistently active, active at two time points or active at one time point), BMI, and DXA-measured fat mass (expressed as internally derived standard deviation scores) at 17 years. Analyses were adjusted for height (where appropriate), sex, age, parental social class, and maternal education with interaction terms to assess sex differences.

There was substantial tracking in active travel through adolescence, with 38.5% of males and 32.3% of females consistently walking or cycling to school. In males, a consistently or predominantly active travel pattern was associated with a lower BMI SD score at age 17 (consistently active: adjusted β=−0.23; 95% CI −0.40, −0.06; active at two time points: adjusted β−0.30; 95% CI −0.50, −0.10) compared to those with a consistently passive pattern. No associations were seen in females.

Maintenance of active travel behaviours throughout adolescence may help to protect against the development of excess BMI in males. In addition to encouraging the adoption of active travel to school, public health messages should aim to prevent drop out from active travel to promote good health in youth.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)483-489
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Transport and Health
Issue number4
Early online date23 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015


  • Active travel
  • Body composition
  • Walking
  • Cycling
  • School
  • Adolescence


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