Why should we facilitate active transportation in children and youth?
Current evidence indicates that children and youth who use active transportation accumulate more physical activity and have better health outcomes in comparison with those who are passive during transportation (e.g. car/bus travel). Moreover, active transportation’s benefits extend beyond physical health as it increases social interaction, reduces road congestion, saves money on gas and parking, and more importantly, can contribute towards reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Active transportation encompasses physical activity accumulated during transportation between different destinations, for example, between home and school, or between home and parks. It can be any form of human-powered transportation and includes a wide range of activities such as walking/jogging/running; cycling; skateboarding; non-mechanized wheelchairing.
Based on data from the nationally representative Global School-Based Student Health Survey (n = 6130), approximately 57% of youth aged 13 to 15 years participated in active transportation.
Data from the ISCOLE studies showed that only 5.2% of children aged 9 to 11 years participated in active transportation (n=546 & n=600). However, these data are at a local level (city of Bengaluru), and younger children are less likely to accumulate physical activity via active transportation. In a study conducted in the city of Hyderabad (n=1208) , approximately 47% of youth aged 12 to 17 years reported participation in active transportation.3
Rural data from approximately 20,000 participants in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra showed that a significantly high proportion (75%) of children and youth aged 8 to 14 years engaged in active transportation. The evidence suggests that children in rural India may be more active due to increased opportunities to walk or bike.
Based on the available data, it appears that at least half of Indian children and youth engage in active transportation, hence a C grade was assigned.