To examine whether modes of commuting to school at baseline and changes in commuting were related to 6-year changes in cardiorespiratory fitness in youth.
A total of 262 (142 girls) Swedish children (9 years at entry) were measured at baseline (1998/9) and follow-up (2004/5). Mode of commuting to school was assessed by questionnaire and fitness by a maximal bicycle test.
At baseline, 34% of children used passive modes of commuting (e.g., car, motorcycle, bus, train), 54% walked, and 12% bicycled to school. Six years later the percentage of bicyclists increased 19% and the percentage of walkers decreased 19%. On average, children who bicycled to school increased their fitness 13% (p=0.03) more than those who used passive modes and 20% (p=0.002) more than those who walked. Children who used passive modes or walked at baseline and bicycled to school at 6 years later increased their fitness 14% (p=0.001) more than those who remained using passive modes or walking at follow-up.
Implementing initiatives that encourage bicycling to school may be a useful strategy to increase cardiorespiratory fitness of children.