Within the global context of the nutrition and physical activity transition it is important to determine the relationship between adiposity and active school transport (AST) across different environmental and socio-cultural settings. The present study assessed the association between adiposity (that is, body mass index z-score (BMIz), obesity, percentage body fat (PBF), waist circumference) and AST in 12 country sites, in the International Study of Childhood Obesity, Lifestyle and the Environment (ISCOLE).
The analytical sample included 6797 children aged 9–11 years. Adiposity indicators included, BMIz calculated using reference data from the World Health Organization, obesity (BMIz greater than or equal to+2 s.d.), PBF measured using bioelectrical impedance and waist circumference. School travel mode was assessed by questionnaire and categorized as active travel versus motorized travel. Multilevel linear and non-linear models were used to estimate the magnitude of the associations between adiposity indicators and AST by country site and sex.
After adjusting for age, sex, parental education and motorized vehicle availability, children who reported AST were less likely to be obese (odds ratio=0.72, 95% confidence interval (0.60–0.87), P<0.001) and had a lower BMIz (−0.09, s.e.m.=0.04, P=0.013), PBF (least square means (LSM) 20.57 versus 21.23% difference −0.66, s.e.m.=0.22, P=0.002) and waist circumference (LSM 63.73 cm versus 64.63 cm difference −0.90, s.e.m.=0.26, P=0.001) compared with those who reported motorized travel. Overall, associations between obesity and AST did not differ by country (P=0.279) or by sex (P=0.571).
AST was associated with lower measures of adiposity in this multinational sample of children. Such findings could inform global efforts to prevent obesity among school-age children.