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What Are the Health Benefits of Active Travel? A Systematic Review of Trials and Cohort Studies

Saunders, LE; Green, JM; Petticrew, MP; Steinbach, R; Roberts, H; (2013) What Are the Health Benefits of Active Travel? A Systematic Review of Trials and Cohort Studies. PLOS ONE , 8 (8) , Article e69912. 10.1371/journal.pone.0069912. Green open access

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Abstract

Background Increasing active travel (primarily walking and cycling) has been widely advocated for reducing obesity levels and achieving other population health benefits. However, the strength of evidence underpinning this strategy is unclear. This study aimed to assess the evidence that active travel has significant health benefits. Methods The study design was a systematic review of (i) non-randomised and randomised controlled trials, and (ii) prospective observational studies examining either (a) the effects of interventions to promote active travel or (b) the association between active travel and health outcomes. Reports of studies were identified by searching 11 electronic databases, websites, reference lists and papers identified by experts in the field. Prospective observational and intervention studies measuring any health outcome of active travel in the general population were included. Studies of patient groups were excluded. Results Twenty-four studies from 12 countries were included, of which six were studies conducted with children. Five studies evaluated active travel interventions. Nineteen were prospective cohort studies which did not evaluate the impact of a specific intervention. No studies were identified with obesity as an outcome in adults; one of five prospective cohort studies in children found an association between obesity and active travel. Small positive effects on other health outcomes were found in five intervention studies, but these were all at risk of selection bias. Modest benefits for other health outcomes were identified in five prospective studies. There is suggestive evidence that active travel may have a positive effect on diabetes prevention, which may be an important area for future research. Conclusions Active travel may have positive effects on health outcomes, but there is little robust evidence to date of the effectiveness of active transport interventions for reducing obesity. Future evaluations of such interventions should include an assessment of their impacts on obesity and other health outcomes.

Type: Article
Title: What Are the Health Benefits of Active Travel? A Systematic Review of Trials and Cohort Studies
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069912
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0069912
Language: English
Additional information: © 2013 Saunders et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. PubMed ID: 23967064
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > UCL GOS Institute of Child Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > UCL GOS Institute of Child Health > Population, Policy and Practice Dept
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1402949
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