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Objective - Accelerometer

694. Association of car ownership and physical activity across the spectrum of human development: Modeling the Epidemiologic Transition Study (METS)

Research Article
David A Shoham, Lara R Dugas, Pascal Bovet, Terrence E Forrester, Estelle V Lambert, Jacob Plange-Rhule, Dale A Schoeller, Soren Brage, Ulf Ekelund, Ramon A Durazo-Arvizu, Richard S Cooper, Amy Luke
March 2015

Commentary: Bethany Walker, GlobalPANet Executive, National Heart Foundation of Australia

This study examines the effect of socio-economic characteristics across five international African-origin cohorts and specifically looks at the effect of car ownership on objectively measured moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA). 

Participants included 2,100 adults from rural Ghana, a peri-urban South Africa township, the Seychelles, urban Jamaica, and suburban Chicago. Each subject recorded their height and weight and completed a questionnaire regarding their education, income, occupation and car ownership. To measure physical activity, each participant wore an Actical accelerometer for eight days. 

In each location, participants who owned cars engaged in significantly less physical activity than those without cars with the difference most distinct among Americans. Outside of the US, car owners engaged in 9.7 minutes less than their counterparts without a car. In the US those without a car engaged in 45 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity, while those with a car engaged in only 21 minutes. The authors controlled for socioeconomic variables in their analysis.

The findings suggest the socio-economic influence of car ownership, are associated with objectively measured MVPA levels.  As car ownership increases in developing countries, strategies are needed to promote physical activity and encourage active travel, for example by building infrastructure that supports pedestrians and cyclists. Further study is needed to broaden these results to international populations.

Source: BMC Public Health, 2015, 15: 173. Access to this article will depend on your institutional rights. Click here to access the full article.