Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Master of Arts

Program

Geography

Supervisor

Dr. Jason Gilliland

Abstract

The commute to school is recognized as a daily activity with high potential for influencing children’s health behaviours and outcomes. While the impact of commute mode on children’s health has been extensively researched, the influence of commute duration remains relatively unexplored. This thesis uses binary logistic regression and multiple linear regression analysis of a cross-sectional sample to determine how active and inactive commute to school duration impacts children’s physical activity level and bodyweight status in urban, small town and rural environments in Southwestern Ontario.

It is found here that longer active commute duration is associated with greater average levels of physical activity, but not greater rates of overweight or obesity. It is also found that longer inactive commute duration is associated with lower rates of overweight or obesity, despite a lack of significant difference in physical activity level. Data suggests that differences in home food environment may play a role.

The built environment is shown to play little to no role in children’s health outcomes once commute mode is accounted for. In addition, contrary to other studies, results show that children living in small to medium population centres, rather than in rural areas, are more likely to be overweight or obese.

This thesis contributes the first study on the effects of children’s inactive commute duration on physical activity level and obesity, and one of the few on the effects of children’s active commute duration on physical activity level and obesity. Methodologically, the strengths of this study include the utilization of researcher-measured BMI as well as GPS and accelerometry to capture precise commute duration, bodyweight status and physical activity level. This study also includes controls for a large number of known confounders at the individual and neighbourhood level.


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