Regular physical activity is essential to overall health. It is associated with weight control, improved mental health, increased chances of living longer, and reduced risk of developing chronic diseases (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011a). Despite these well-established health benefits of regular physical activity, less than half of adults in the United States meet recommended levels of physical activity outlined in the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011b).
Physical activity can occur in four different domains: recreational, occupational, household, and transportation. The majority of studies undertaken to date have explored recreational physical activity, or physical activity from a global dimension (Bull, Maslin & Armstrong, 2009). Physical activity for transportation, or commonly referred to as “walking or bicycling for transportation,” “non-motorized transport,” “human-powered transport,” or “active travel,” and will hereafter be called “active transportation,” is increasingly acknowledged as a convenient and effective mode to achieve recommended levels of physical activity (Boyle, Heyworth, Bull, & Fritschi, 2012). Recent studies have demonstrated the health benefits specific to active transportation, including a decreased risk of various chronic diseases like obesity (Wennberg et al., 2006; Gordon-Larsen et al., 2009). As a result of this growing body of evidence, increasing active transportation has become has become a national priority and the following developmental objectives were newly added to Healthy People 2020: “Increase the proportion of trips made by walking” and “Increase the proportion of trips made by bicycling” (United States Department of Health and Human Services, 2012).
The interest in promoting and understanding active transportation has extended beyond the field of public health and into a variety of disciplines, with the transportation sector being the most notable. While public health researchers have recognized the important link between active transportation and increased physical activity, transportation researchers have viewed walking and bicycling as opportune modes to provide more travel options that can decrease automobile demand, traffic congestion, and environmental impacts (Forsyth & Krizek, 2010).
Despite numerous health, transportation, and environment-related benefits of active transportation, rates of active transportation have decreased dramatically among U.S. children, adolescents, and adults over the past several decades. More studies are needed to assess the demographic, psychosocial, behavioral, sociocultural, and environmental correlates of active transportation in order to more effectively develop targeted prevention strategies to address physical inactivity. To date, most public health studies have examined these correlates in terms of recreational or global physical activity, but not related to the physical activity domain of transportation. In looking specifically at demographic correlates of physical activity, Bauman and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of physical activity studies and determined that male sex and Caucasian race were consistent correlates of physical activity in both children and adults (Bauman et al., 2012). Among adults, age was inversely related to physical activity. Although previous studies have demonstrated these associations between certain demographic characteristics and physical activity for recreation, little is known about the association between similar demographic factors and physical activity for transportation.
Therefore, the aim of this study was to examine the associations between gender, age, race, and active transportation, in a sample of Missouri residents who used active transportation or public transportation as a mode to and from work in the previous week. The primary