Presentation at the 2015 Active Living Research Annual Conference.
Walking and cycling are recommended forms of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) that can serve as means of travel to substitute for short car trips. Walking and cycling to work (active commuting) have the potential to be incorporated into commuters’ daily routine and might therefore be more easily adopted and maintained than other forms of physical activity. In addition, active commuting is specifically associated with reduced cardiovascular risk, physical fitness, and weight control in adults. The proportion of walking and cycling to work in the US (5%) is extremely low compared to many European countries, such as Denmark (31%), Germany (32%), the Netherlands (47%), and Switzerland (50%). The use of public transit usually involves walking or cycling to and from bus or train stations and has shown the potential to contribute to the commuter’s overall physical activity level. Despite that, public transit and multi-modal transit have been studied less as a mode choice compared to active commuting. In order to develop effective interventions to promote alternative commuting modes (other than car driving), an understanding of the factors associated with this particular behavior is required.
Using data from a large sample of working adults in four Missouri metropolitan areas, this analysis examines the combined impact of self-reported home and worksite neighborhood environmental factors and worksite supports and policies on employees’ commuting modes.
The participants were from the Supports at Home and Work for Maintaining Energy Balance (SHOW-ME) study, a cross-sectional study designed to understand environmental and worksite policy influences on employees’ obesity status. Between 2012 and 2013, participants residing in four Missouri metropolitan areas were interviewed via phone and provided informations on socio-demographic characteristics. A subset of questions from the Physical Activity Neighborhood Environment Survey (PANES) was used to measure built environment features in the home neighborhood environment. Ten PANES questions were adapted to ask similar questions about the worksite neighborhood environment. Worksite supports and policies were determined using eighteen questions asking whether specific policies or features supporting physical activity were available at the worksite and if the participants ever used them. Commuting mode were self-reported and categorized into car driving, public transit, and active commuting (or multi-modal). Commuting distance was calculated using geographic information system. Multivariate logistic regressions were used to examine the correlates of using public transit and active commuting (or multi-modal) respectively, adjusting for selected significant covariates such as age, sex, BMI, education, marital status, number of children in the household, household income and household car ownership,. All analyses were performed using Stata version 12.0 (STATA Corp., College Station, Texas, USA).
The majority of 1,338 included participants (69.3% women) reported commuting by driving (88.9%); while only 4.9% used public transit and 6.2% used active modes. In final adjusted models, living within 10-15 minutes walking distance from a transit stop is associated with higher likelihood of using public transit (3.78, CI 95%: 1.00-14.9) compared to those home neighborhoods without transit stops within walking distance. Employees who reported ever having used worksite incentives to use public transit had a higher likelihood of using public transit modes (23.9, CI 95%: 10.4 – 54.8) compared to those whose worksites provide no such incentive. For multi-modal or active commuting mode, living 10 miles or further from work is associated with less likelihood (0.12, CI 95%: 0.05 – 0.29) of using any active mode to commute compared to commuters who drive. While having free or low cost recreation facilities around the worksite is associated with higher likelihood (1.85, CI 95%: 1.03 – 3.32) of using active commuting mode. In addition, reporting having ever used the bike facility to lock bikes at the worksite is associated with higher likelihood (9.17, CI 95%: 3.84 – 21.8) of using active commuting mode.
Both environmental factors and worksite supports and policies are associated with the use of public transit, active commuting or multi-modal transportation. These findings add to the body of research evidence on the promotion of alternative commuting mode other than car driving, in order to promote physical activity in the employed population at large. Using longitudinal design, future studies should explore the potential of alternative commuting mode interventions, including policies and supports that involve worksites effort.
While an improvement to the built environment may require long-term effort, worksite supports and policies such as incentives and safe bike storage could be implemented in the short-term with minimum effort. The prevalence of active commuting in the US as well as our study sample is noticeably lower than many European countries. Thus there is a potential to implement and evaluate the cost-effectiveness of worksite supports and policies in promoting alternative commuting mode other than car driving, as well as the longitudinal impact on wider health outcomes and productivity associated with active commuting.
Support / Funding Source
The SHOW-ME study is supported by the Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer (TREC) Center at Washington University in St. Louis. The TREC Center is funded by the National Cancer Institute at NIH (U54 CA155496), Washington University and the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center. We acknowledge all the participants in this study. We thank to Dr. Jung Ae Lee for providing statistical consultant for this work.