Children riding a bicycle to school are more active and fitter than those who rely on other modes of transport, says a new research.
The findings are based on a study of 6,000 children, aged 10 to 16, from the eastern region of England. The children`s cardio-respiratory fitness and travel habits were assessed during 2007 and 2008.
Gavin Sandercock and Christine Voss, biological scientists, University of Essex, who led the research, said such active transportation can be a gateway for lifelong fitness in children.
Students from 23 schools completed a school-travel questionnaire and completed a 20-metre shuttle-run test (a speed and agility exercise) to assess their fitness levels.
Researchers found boys who walked to school were 20 percent more likely to be fit compared with those using motorised transport such as bus and automobiles, and girls who walked were 30 percent more likely to be fit.
Boys who cycled to school were 30 percent more likely to be fit, but there was an even more dramatic difference in fitness among female subjects, who were seven times more likely to reach the minimum fitness standard than girls who were driven to school.
Girls who bicycled to school were seven times more likely to reach the minimum fitness standard than girls who used motorised transport.
In all cases, children who were driven to school had the lowest levels of physical fitness, being less fit than walkers, cyclists and even children who took the bus.
Cyclists were also found to be more physically active at other times of day when compared to children using other transport modes.
Although cyclists and car users were most different in terms of physical fitness, the distances they travelled to school were very similar.
Cyclists rode for about 1.5 miles to school, and average car rides were about two miles. Half of these car journeys were less than two miles and 15 percent were less than a mile - both easily walkable or bikeable distances.
In all cases, children who were driven to school had the lowest levels of physical fitness, being less fit than walkers, cyclists and children who took the bus.
Cyclists were also found to be more physically active at other times of day when compared with children using other transport modes, says a release of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).
`Children need to be active and stay fit in order to stay healthy. Encouraging them to walk or cycle to school is one great opportunity to help achieve this,` Voss said.
These findings were published in the journal of ACSM.