Walking or bicycling to work influenced by others

May 29, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—People who walk or bike to work are likely to influence their co-workers and partners to do the same, according to health researchers.

" are important, specifically interpersonal influences, such as spouses and co-workers," said Melissa Bopp, assistant professor of kinesiology, Penn State. She emphasized that community and employers also significantly influence whether people choose to actively commute.

More than 80 percent of American adults do not meet the guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities, according to Healthy People 2020, a federal initiative that sets national objectives and monitors progress concerning the health of the population. Regardless of a chronic disease or disability, any can improve health and quality of life. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least two and a half hours of moderate-intensity a week or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week for adults.

Active commuting (AC)—, such as bicycling or walking, as a way to travel to and from work—is one way to help adults integrate the recommended activity into their daily routine.

Bopp and colleagues report in the online issue of the American Journal of Health Behavior that married peoplewere more likely to participate in AC than non-married people, men activelycommuted more often than women and mothers were even less likely to actively commute.

Four of the variables studied probedthe connection between and AC. Having a spouse who actively commutes or co-workers who actively commute had a positive influence on the decision to do the same. The perception that a spouse would approve of AC or that co-workers would approve of AC also had a positive influence, but with slightly less impact.

However, at an individual level variables that were negatively related to active commuting included age, BMI, number of children, number of chronic diseases and number of cars in the household.

Bopp noted she was surprised to discover how many variables were significantly related to active commuting. People who were comfortablewith their bicycling skills were more likely to actively commute, as were those who believed they had a shorter biking or walking time to work. Believing that an employer supports active commuting and working for an employer who supports AC, living in a community that supports AC and believing that the community is supportive of pedestrians and bicyclists were all positively significantly related to active commuting.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the researchers foundthat lack of on-street bike lanes, off-street bike and walking paths, and sidewalks all negatively influenced . Difficult terrain, bad weather and the speed and volume of traffic along the commuting route were also significantly related to people deciding to not actively commute.

The researchers distributed surveys to 9,766 people across the mid-Atlantic States and received 1,234 viable completed surveys. The respondents were between the ages of 18 and 75, employed full- or part-time and physically able to walk or bike to work. The participants responded to questions and statements including how they traveled to work, whether or not their spouse and coworkers influenced their choice on how they traveled to/from work, if their employer supported actively commuting, how confident they were with their cycling skills and how bicycle-friendly their community was.

The researchers did not include any questions about leisure-time activity or any other forms of physical activity participation in this study.

Moving forward, Bopp and colleagues believe that the findings of this study provide a foundation for large-scale strategies to target population-level AC patterns.

"We have to look at the complete picture and look at individual thoughts and beliefs (about AC)," said Bopp. "This is a complex problem that we need to think about at multiple levels to address influences on behavior."

Also working on this research were Andrew T. Kaczynski, assistant professor of health promotion, education andbehavior, University of South Carolina, and Matthew E. Campbell, research assistant, Department of , Penn State.

Explore further: Commuting to work by car linked to weight gain

Related Stories

Commuting to work by car linked to weight gain

January 23, 2013
Using active transport to commute to work can reduce the weight gain common to most adults. According to an Australian study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, urban residents who drive to work gain more weight ...

Long commutes may be hazardous to health

May 8, 2012
As populations move even further away from urban centers, more people spend longer hours behind the wheel on their way to and from work. While sedentary behavior is known to have adverse effects on cardiovascular and metabolic ...

Albertans getting more active, but still room to move

January 10, 2013
More Albertans may be benefiting from physical activity, but there's still plenty of room for people to get moving, according to a new survey.

Only one in five Americans gets enough exercise, CDC report says

May 2, 2013
(HealthDay)—Most Americans are falling short when it comes to exercise, a new government report shows.

Recommended for you

To reduce postoperative pain, consider sleep—and caffeine

August 18, 2017
Sleep is essential for good mental and physical health, and chronic insufficient sleep increases the risk for several chronic health problems.

Despite benefits, half of parents against later school start times

August 18, 2017
Leading pediatrics and sleep associations agree: Teens shouldn't start school so early.

Doctors exploring how to prescribe income security

August 18, 2017
Physicians at St. Michael's Hospital are studying how full-time income support workers hired by health-care clinics can help vulnerable patients or those living in poverty improve their finances and their health.

Schoolchildren who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try tobacco

August 17, 2017
Vaping - or the use of e-cigarettes - is widely accepted as a safer option for people who are already smoking.

Federal snack program does not yield expected impacts, researchers find

August 17, 2017
A well-intentioned government regulation designed to offer healthier options in school vending machines has failed to instill better snacking habits in a sample of schools in Appalachian Virginia, according to a study by ...

In a nutshell: Walnuts activate brain region involved in appetite control

August 17, 2017
Packed with nutrients linked to better health, walnuts are also thought to discourage overeating by promoting feelings of fullness. Now, in a new brain imaging study, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.