Adults’ Physically-Active Transport: A Population- and Destination-Based Perspective

Rachel Cole (2008). Adults’ Physically-Active Transport: A Population- and Destination-Based Perspective PhD Thesis, School of Population Health, The University of Queensland.

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Author Rachel Cole
Thesis Title Adults’ Physically-Active Transport: A Population- and Destination-Based Perspective
School, Centre or Institute School of Population Health
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2008-09
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Prof Neville Owen
Assoc Prof Evie Leslie
Dr Maria Donald
Dr Ester Cerin
Total pages 190
Total colour pages nil
Total black and white pages 190
Subjects 320000 Medical and Health Sciences
Abstract/Summary Increasing population levels of physical activity is a key public health priority in combating chronic non-communicable diseases. Epidemiological evidence for the health benefits of moderate-intensity physical activity has aroused interest in active transport, particularly walking. Social ecological models, and specifically policy and environmental approaches to increasing active transport are core elements of public health goals. There is currently limited walking for transport data in Australia that can be analysed using public health criteria. There is some evidence that socio-demographic differentials may exist. Investigations of the correlates of walking for transport suggest that residents of neighbourhoods with greater population densities, more land use mix, greater street connectivity and better walking and cycling infrastructure, tend to walk and cycle more. The studies in this Thesis start to address some aspects of these knowledge gaps by focussing on the social, personal and environmental correlates of adults’ walking for transport. These studies aim to identify how active commuting and transport options might potentially be used to increase adult levels of health-enhancing physical activity, through increased walking. In doing so, it assists in increasing understanding about ways to link public health policy initiatives more strongly to the transport and urban-design fields, and to other sectors with an interest in active transport. The thesis begins with a literature review of the descriptive epidemiology and correlates of walking for transport. Chapter 2 is a secondary analysis of existing data from a statewide survey of adults. It reports socio-demographic variations in moderate to brisk paced walking for transport, and the contribution of walking for transport to health-enhancing physical activity, separately from walking for recreation. The results showed that rates of sufficient walking for transport using public health criteria (10% for men; 9% for women) were slightly less than those for walking for recreation or exercise (14% for both men and women). Few socio-demographic differences emerged in rates of walking for transport. Men aged over 60 years were significantly less likely to walk for transport. Walking contributed more toward meeting the current public-health guidelines among women (15% to 21%) than among men (6% to 8%). The Thesis then examines relevant issues associated with walking to two discrete destinations, within a defined local-community context. The first destination-type was primary schools (Chapter 3). In this study, the prevalence and duration of walking to and from school, together with perceived influences on doing so, were examined among parents of primary school children. Findings showed that, despite the overall low prevalence of walking to school by parents, health-enhancing benefits may be achieved, even when other modes of transport are used in conjunction with walking. Walking was a common (28%) mode of transport for journeys less than two kilometres. Eighteen percent of parents who travelled by modes other than walking also walked for at least 10 minutes. Significantly greater proportions of parents who walked for at least 10 minutes: had only one car in their household; had a child who attended a government school; did not have a driver’s licence; had 10 years or less of education; and, lived within two kilometres of the school. Factors perceived by parents as influencing walking to and from school were: being physically active; safety concerns for the child walking alone; not having to park; walking being the child’s preferred option; there being too much motor vehicle traffic; and, their child’s age and road sense. The second destination-type examined was tertiary education institutions (Chapter 4). In this study, associations of stages of motivational readiness for active transport with perceived barriers and incentives to walking to and from university among students were examined. Common barriers to walking were long travel distances, inconvenience and time constraints. Common incentives were shorter travel distance, having more time, supportive infrastructure and better security. Those not considering active commuting (pre-contemplators) were significantly more likely to report shorter travel distance as an incentive compared to those in the contemplation-preparation stage. Those in the contemplation-preparation stage were significantly more likely to report lack of motivation, inadequate infrastructure, shorter travel distance and inconvenience as barriers; and, having more time, supportive infrastructure, social support and incentive programs as enablers. Chapter 5 explores ways of linking public health policy initiatives with other sectors. Structured interviews with senior and middle level administrators from public, private and community groups were used to assess perceived barriers and enablers to active transport. Key themes emerged from the study relating to infrastructure delivery, public transport services, walk- and cycle-friendly community attributes, political leadership and government coordination, and societal travel norms and culture. There were also themes relating to limited resources and limited relevant technical expertise, institutional and practitioner cultures, and agencies not identifying with their roles in active transport. Broader intersectoral policies and cross-government initiatives were seen to hold promise, including economic incentives and built environment guidelines, campaigns targeting public attitudes and opinions, and community participation in policy-making. The findings from these studies and the implications for increasing physical activity through walking for transport are discussed in Chapter 6. These findings have potential to be used to inform intervention approaches, study initiatives and future research directions across key sectors for specific subgroups and particular destinations. Physical activity strategies and programs could feasibly be designed within community and organisational settings to increase adults’ rates of participation in walking for transport.
Keyword physical activity
active transport
Additional Notes Nil

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