By Bobinec, Greg on December 4, 2018.
Children riding their bikes or walking to school have been largely replaced by a lineup of cars and school buses bringing them to the front door.
There are a number of factors that have contributed to the decline of active transportation for children and a University of Lethbridge public health researcher explores the trend in his new book.
Richard Larouche, a researcher in the Faculty of Health Sciences at U of L, discusses the trend in his new book “Children’s Active Transportation” and says it is important to ingrain active transportation habits in children so they can continue to be more active in their teen and adult years.
“The literature is consistent in respect to the relationship between active transportation and physical activity,” says Larouche. “Those who use it are more physically active and studies in adults have found that those involved in active transportation have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, some cancers, diabetes and so on.”
Larouche began walking to school at the age of seven and continues to be an active cyclist. He says travel patterns developed by an individual are habitual and children who grow up knowing only cars and buses are less likely to adopt active transportation patterns than those who are active as children.
“Initially in my PhD studies, I was looking more at the effect of active transportation on physical activity and health-related outcomes, things like fitness, body weight and cardiovascular risk,” says Larouche. “Recently, I’ve transitioned into looking at what distinguishes children who use active transportation from those who don’t and trying to find new ways to encourage active transportation.”
Originally from Charlevoix, Que., Larouche completed his undergraduate and master’s studies at the University of Quebec. He then went to the University of Ottawa for his PhD and spent a considerable amount of time at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario as part of a research group working with children on an assortment of public health issues.
The book is written for a broad range of audiences, appealing to researchers in the same field, but also to advanced students in transportation, urban studies and in public health. Transportation and urban planning public officials are also able to benefit from the insights provided.
“The book is divided into three main sections. The first looks at benefits of active transportation in terms of health, the environment and the economy,” says Larouche. “The second section is about the factors that are associated with influencing active transportation, and the third section is about the interventions that exist to promote active transportation, things such as walking school buses and school travel plans.”
He notes active transportation goes beyond just trips to and from the school, and that it involves developing an urban infrastructure that supports the positive behaviour.
“In the end, we make the case that most of the current interventions focus on the trip to and from school, but there’s a need for interventions to get active transportation to other places, such as parks, sports, fields, shops, all need to be accessible,” says Larouche.
The findings of active transportation in children and youth from Larouche, is available in his new book, which was launched recently at the University of Lethbridge, and is available online at Elsevier.com.
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