Influence of distance, area, and cultural context in active commuting: Continental and insular children
Influence of distance, area, and cultural context in active commuting: Continental and insular children
Fernando Rodr??guez-Rodr??guezID 0 2 3 4
Oscar Pakomio Jara 2 3 4
Norman Macmillan Kuthe 0 2 3 4
Manuel Herrador-Colmenero 2 3 4
Robinson Ram??rez-V e?lez 1 2 3 4
Palma Chill o?n 2 3 4
0 Grupo IRyS, School of Physical Education, Pontificia Universidad Cat o ?lica de Valpara ??so, Valpara ??so, Chile, 2 Grupo de Investigacio ?n PROFITH "PROmoting FITness and Health THrough physical activity". Departamento de Educaci o ?n F ??sica y Deportiva, Facultad de Ciencias del Deporte, Universidad de Granada , Granada , Spain , 3 La Inmaculada Teacher Training Centre, University of Granada , Granada , Spain
1 Department of Health Sciences, Public University of Navarra , Navarrabiomed, Pamplona, Navarra , Spain
2 Editor: Yajie Zou, Tongji University , CHINA
3 Funding: This study was supported by the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness and the European Regional Development Fund (DEP2016-75598-R, MINECO/ FEDER, UE). Additionally, this study takes place thanks to funding from the University of Granada , Plan Propio de Investigacio ?n 2016, Excellence
4 Data Availability Statement: All relevant data are within the manuscript and its Supporting Information files. More info: fernando
Commuting by walking or cycling is a way to increase physical activity levels. The objective of this article was to determine the modes of commuting to school and the distance and time of the way to school among children from Easter Island and from the mainland (Valpara??so), in Chile. A total of 666 children and adolescents aged 10 to 18 years old (208 from Easter Island and 458 from Valpara??so) participated and completed a valid questionnaire including data about age, gender, usual commuting mode to and from school, distance, and travel time. There are important differences in the mode of commuting between students of Valpara??so and Easter Island. Private transport is more commonly used in Valpara??so than in Easter Island (p<0.001). Furthermore, it was observed that cycling and public transportation are not used as mode of commuting in Valpara??so and Easter Island respectively. Students from Easter Island, who travel more distance and during more time, are more active than students from Valpara??so (going 24.8% and 17.6%; from: 61% and 28.8% respectively). This situation is influenced by the geographic context of the island, the distances from home to school, and the type of commuting, which fosters the level of active commuting. On the other hand, the passive modes of commuting to school are higher in the mainland urban setting of Valpara??so. It is necessary to study the diverse contexts of the Easter Island population, but, for now, the rural setting of Easter Island seems to be associated with a greater level of active commuting to school.
Active school transport can be defined as the type of commuting by which children or
adolescents cover the distance between home and school using modes that do not involve motorized
actions: Units of Excellence; Unit of Excellence on
Exercise and Health (UCEES). To PACO project
(Pedalea y Anda al Cole), from PROFITH group,
University of Granada. To CONICYT PAI-MEC
program, from Education Ministry of Chile and to
Carmen Sainz Quinn of Granada University for
English revision and correction of the document.
The funders had no role in study design, data
collection and analysis, decision to publish, or
preparation of the manuscript.
vehicles, such as walking or cycling [
]. On the other hand, passive commuting refers to the
use of motorized vehicles as a mode of transport, such as by car, bus, metro, train, motorcycle,
or others . Where passive commuting is concerned, commuting by public transport (i.e.
bus, metro or train) is more active than by private transport (i.e. car or motorcycle), because to
reach the bus, metro or train stops, it commonly requires walking. Public transport can thus
be considered a mixed mode of transport [
Active commuting to school provides an opportunity to increase levels of physical activity,
and to improve the physical fitness and the health status of these students [
]. Children and
adolescents that commute actively are able to increase the time dedicated to physical activity
between 5?37 minutes/day [
]. More specifically, regarding it is benefits, Andersen [
observed that children aged 9.7 ? 0.5 years old that commuted actively presented lower levels
of body fat and a lower likelihood of acquiring cardiac diseases. Recently, Ram??rez-Ve?lez [
showed that cycling to school regularly may be associated with better physical fitness and a
lower incidence of metabolic syndrome than passive transport, especially in girls. Likewise,
active commuting has been associated with a better cognitive performance in adolescents aged
13?18.5 years old [
] and a reduction in stress in students aged 10?14 years old during school
In spite of these benefits, the frequency of active commuting to school has drastically
decreased in the last thirty years in countries like the United States [
], United Kingdom [
], Australia [
], New Zealand [
], and Spain [
]. Previous data from South
America point out that Mexican teenagers (10?14 years old) walked to school at a rate of 68%,
and a 2% cycled to school [
], while Colombian children (10.5 ? 0.6 years old) and Brazilian
children (10.5 ? 0.5 years old) showed active commuting rates (walking or by bike) of 71.5%
and 40% respectively [
]. A lower rate of active commuting was found in Ecuador, where a
14.2% of children and a 20% of adolescents were active [
]. In Chile, among the rural
adolescents (12?13 years old), around a 22.9% and a 28.5% of them commuted actively to and from
school respectively [
], while only an 11.0% of children (10.6 years old) and a 24.8% of
adolescents (13.9 years old) from urban areas walked to school [
]. The behavior of active
commuting is very contextual-specific because of the diversity of cultural and geographic factors.
Previous studies have proven that the main barrier for commuting actively to school is the
]. In Europe, it has been observed that Belgian children aged 11?12 years old
commute 1.5 km walking, while teenagers aged 17?18 years old commute walking up to 2 km
]. Commuting thresholds have also been established in British students. At the age of
10, the threshold distance to walk to school is 1.4 km, increasing up to 1.6 km in children aged
11 years and 3 km in adolescents aged 14 years [
]. In Spain, the threshold distance to walk to
school was 0.88km for elementary school children (7?12 years old) and 1.35 km for high
school adolescents (13?18 years old) [
]. It is an overall issue that the farther children live
from school, the less likely it is for them to commute actively. However, the walkable distance
from home to school seems to be another contextual-specific issue, regarding the urban
planning and the cultural perception of a walkable distance. For example, the proportion of active
commuting to school within a distance of 3 km is 15% in the United States [
], whereas in
Finland it is 75% for the same distance [
Likewise, the ethnic origin of the participants may present differences in the modes of
commuting, as well as in the level of physical activity of students [
]. Chile possesses ethnic and
cultural differences. For instance, Easter Island (Rapa Nui) has particular characteristics
because it is far away from the mainland (3700 km), the natural environment based on rural
areas, and its cultural origins from Polynesia (Maori origin), with different customs and a
folklore based on dances and ancestral competitions. Traditionally, both physical activity and
healthy living have been naturally promoted [
]. Research in physical activity on the island is
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scarce, however, scientific evidence has indicated a low incidence of obesity (24%) and more
children with normal weight (56%) in relation to the current national average of childhood
obesity and normal weight in mainland (25.3% and 41.8% respectively). Additionally, they
practice more hours of physical education per week than their counterparts in the mainland,
which is common among the Rapa Nui population [
]. These results suggest that currently
there may be differences between children and adolescents on Easter Island and on the
mainland regarding healthy lifestyles, such as the mode of commuting to school.
Therefore, the objective of this study was to determine and compare the modes of
commuting to and from school among children from Easter Island (island territory) and Valpara??so
(mainland territory) in Chile.
Materials and methods
Participants and design
A total of 666 Chilean students (children aged 9?11 years old and adolescents aged 12?18
years old) who agreed to participate in this study. From the total, 208 came from 2 different
schools in the province of Easter Island (122 children and 86 adolescents, of a total universe of
667 schoolchildren), and 458 came from 3 different schools in Valpara??so (176 children and
282 adolescents, of a total universe of 1,500 schoolchildren). This was a cross-sectional study
with a non-probability sample of volunteer students.
Instruments and procedure
The questionnaire used was the Chilean version of the previous valid Spanish questionnaire
designed for measuring the modes and frequency of commuting to and from school [
(http://profith.ugr.es/paco). Two questions were asked about the usual mode of commuting to
and from school. Each question provided the following answers: walk, cycle, car, motorcycle,
school bus, public bus, metro/train, or other (in this case, the mode was required). In addition,
the modes were classified to build two variables: Active (walk, cycle) vs Passive (others mode,
no walk or cycle); and Active (walk, cycle) vs Private transport (car, motorcycle, school bus) vs
Public transport (public bus, metro/train).
Moreover, questions were asked regarding age, gender, distance, and time from home to
school. Distances were measured in kilometers, and they were divided into 5 categories (0?0.5
km, 0.5?1 km, 1?2 km, 2?3 km, 3?5 km, and >5 km). Time was categorized into 0?15
minutes, 16?30 minutes, 31?60 minutes, and >60 minutes. A test-retest reliability analysis of
questions about the mode of commuting to school, distance, and time in the Chilean version was
done with Kappa statistic values (2 questionnaires were completed separated by 7 days). The
mode of commuting to and from school shows a high reliability (Kappa > 0.85), whereas
commuting distance shows a moderate reliability (Kappa > 0.69).
The participants had between 15 and 50 minutes to complete this self-reported
questionnaire in classroom. They were accompanied and helped by the researchers and the Physical
Education teacher. The questionnaires were completed by students in grades 5?8 in
Elementary and Middle School (children aged 9?11 years old) and 9?11 in High School (adolescents
aged 12?18 years old). The information collected from children and adolescents was provided
voluntarily and with written consent and signed by the parents, who were informed about the
types of the questions, as well as the objectives and the confidentiality of the results. Therefore,
all participants gave informed consent for participating in the study, following the rules and
approved by Ethics Committee of the Pontificia Universidad Cato?lica de Valpara??so (code:
CCF02052017) and following ethical standards that were in accordance with the Declaration
of Helsinki 2004.
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A descriptive statistical analysis was performed by obtaining means and standard deviations
for continuous variables and percentages for categorical variables, according to sex and age
group. Chi-square analyses were performed to determine the differences between the students
of Valparaiso and Easter Island for the two mode of commuting variables created: Passive vs
Active, and Passive vs Public transportation vs Private transportation.
To perform the statistical analyses, we used the software IBM SPSS Statistics version 21,
establishing a level of trust of 95% and a statistical significance of p<0.05.
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Statistical significance in a Chi-Square test with a value of p<0.05.
a p-value was not calculated, because there was no prevalence.
b p-value was not calculated, because there no exist commuting mode in Easter Island
from Easter Island compared to students from Valpara??so (p<0.001). In relation to private
commuting to and from school, the values are higher in students from Valpara??so compared
to students from Easter Island (p<0.001). There was no use of public transport in Easter
Comparing active children and adolescents in relation to the distance traveled (Fig 2), data
show that when the distance commuted is <2 km there is a high percentage of who commute
actively (76.1%). In contrast, the distance range of >2 km presents a greater value of children
who commute passively (63.6%).
In the current study, we observed that children and adolescents from Easter Island walked and
cycled more, being more active than their counterparts of Valparaiso. In Easter Island, the
students cover minor distance and spend less time for commuting than those of Valparaiso.
However, cars are the main mode of commuting in both groups.
Prevalence of active commuting to school in rural and urban areas
A variety of studies exist that have focused on analyzing the levels of active commuting to
school among children and adolescents on a worldwide level [
]. These studies show a
greater level of active commuting in adolescents than in children, being higher on the way to
home from school, which agree with the results obtained in the present study. Despite the fact
that these similarities were observed among the students of Valpara??so and Easter Island, there
are marked differences in the commuting modes, which make the students of Easter Island
more active. In this respect, the population projections made by the National Institute of
Statistics of Chile (INE) point out that the population in Valpara??so reached 295,927 residents in
2017 (density: 94.1 inhabitants/km2), who 0.3% are in rural areas and 99.7% in urban areas
(16,396 km2 of surface), whereas Easter Island only reached 7,750 (density: 47.3 inhabitants/
], who 15.7% belong to rural areas and 84,7% to urban areas (163.3 km2 of surface).
This fact allows an urban and rural context to be distinguished. A North American study
suggests that children from rural areas are more likely to be active commuters than urban children
]. On the other hand, when comparing children from urban and rural areas from Brazil,
data shows that children from urban areas present higher levels of active commuting to school
than children from rural areas [
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Fig 1. Comparative modes of commuting, where: Active is walking and cycling. Private is car, motorcycle and
school bus, Public is public bus and metro/train. (A) Going to school; (B): From school. Indicates statistical
significance at the p<0.001 level. Indicates statistical significance at the p<0.01 level. In Public, p-value was not
calculated, because there was no prevalence.
Additionally, children who live in rural areas may have more opportunities for active play
or active commuting and more limited access to technologies such as the Internet [
which is the case of Easter Island, where there is no cable television and only three national
channels are broadcast. Likewise, students from urban areas have started to increase their
sedentary behavior, which can be associated with the increase in time spent in front of screens
. This behavior can be defined as the total amount of time spent watching television, using
computers or playing video games, a phenomenon that is very common among young people
]. These behaviors, especially the time spent watching television, has also been associated
with a higher risk in children of being overweight or obese [
40, 41, 42
An important result is that no participant used the bike to get to school in Valpara??so. In
addition, one must consider the geographical context of the region of Valpara??so, that has
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Fig 2. Comparative modes of commuting, where: Active is walking and cycling. Passive is car, motorcycle, school
bus, public bus, and metro/train. Statistical significance at the p<0.01 level, between Passive and Active commuting
adjusted to distance.
important inconveniences such as long distances from home to school and a geography with
differences between the hills and the coast. Moreover, the scarce availability of bicycle paths
(only 2 km), which disfavours this mode of transport [
]. For other hand, the urban area of
Easter Island that is flat and less cars circulate, which can be associated with the highest use of
the bicycle (around 10%).
A study performed in California suggests that the independence that students gain as they
grow up in rural areas, combined with the increase in the use of public transport to get to
school provides, in turn, an opportunity to increase the level of physical activity of this
]. In urban students from Valpara??so, the use of public transportation when returning
from school increased significantly (p<0.05). Nevertheless, the fact that this type of
commuting mode almost does not exist in Easter Island (only taxi) due to the small area of the island
and the concentration of people in the urban area that does not exceed 7 km2. This could
influence the significant increase in active commuting (i.e. walking or cycling) in both going to
school and going back from school, especially if the commuting distances are smaller, unlike
Valparaiso with almost 50 km2 of urban area, which strongly impacts the distances that must
be traveled (Fig 3), decreasing the options of active commuting.
Distance of active commuting to school
The distance covered for commuting to school in Easter Island is lower (barely 15% of students
cover more than 5 km) than in Valpara??so (33.3% of students commute more than 5 km). The
vast distances between the home of each student and their school in the Chilean urban setting
are the main limitation in promoting more active commuting to school behaviours.
In urban areas in India, 90% of students between the ages of 11 and 14 years old live less than 5
km from their school, and 36% live less than 1 km. Greater distances to school were strongly
associated with the use of passive modes of transport. Children that lived close to their school were much
more likely to walk (56%) or go by bicycle (6%) [
]. An Australian study affirms that the greater
the distance between the home and school was, the lower the percentage of students that
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Fig 3. Urban areas of both cities (Rapa Nui island and Valparaiso in mainland) belonging to the same region.
commuted actively every day was [
]. Furthermore, students that lived less than 0.75 km from
school were more active than those who lived farther than 0.75 km. Another Spanish study in a
rural setting defined a distance of 0.8 km as the walking cut-off point for children [
Furthermore, other researchers have established differences between the cut-off distance for children and
adolescents, from 0.88 km to 1.35 km respectively [
]. All these results have indicated that long
distances from home to school could be a major limitation in promoting the daily active
commuting of the student population to and from school, which can also be observed in our results. Long
distances to school imply a low likelihood of adopting active transport practices [
], and distances
of approximately 2 km are associated with the best physical activity related to active commuting
Given that the schools are far away from residential areas, the adoption of policies to reduce
distances and promote active commuting would reduce the gap between European and
Chilean students. Smaller distances to school are associated with the enrollment of students in the
closest school. This makes it necessary for policies to incentivize enrollment in the nearest
school, which could increase the level of active transport and contribute to tackling the impacts
that come from physical inactivity among young people.
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The part of the population on Easter Island of Maori origin is one of the few cultures that
keeps its original culture intact and maintains the same customs and lifestyle. Other Maori
communities, such as the one found in New Zealand has become urbanized enough to the
point that almost no difference can be found between their active commuting behavior and
that of the European New Zealand population. The significance is barely p = 0.12 with an
Odds Ratio of hardly 1.55 between both ethnicities [
], including 2.3% less time in
moderateto-vigorous physical activity than the European New Zealand population [
]. In addition to
this, a greater proportion of Maori lives in disadvantaged geographic areas, with lower family
incomes and with a formal education that is inferior to that of European countries. This
dynamic, in turn, decreases their level of physical activity and increases levels of childhood
]. This evidence contrasts with the commuting mode on Easter Island, and that is
not related to the level of income, because the level of poverty on the island reaches 8%, while
in Valpara??so is 15.4% [
]. Another study determined the differences in median income,
being $NZ14,800 for Maori compared with $NZ19,800 for European New Zealanders. Despite
disparities in income level, the relatively high physical activity level (69% perform >150 min/
week), is likely to be related to other social factors [
], that have been specific to culture
(horticultural, hunters and fished for food).
Children with parents who perceive their neighbourhood as more connected, and are
located closer to school, engaged in higher levels of independent mobility in NZ European,
Maori and Samoan population, unlike other contexts, where ?traffic danger? was the most
common reason for concern [
]. The cohesion of the inhabitants of Easter Island, allows for a
better sense of security, due to the proximity of schools, the small urban area and low number
of cars. These elements are key, allowing Easter Island to be considered as an example for
other communities by the urban organization and adequate environment that favors the active
commuting to school.
Limitations and strengths
This study has limitations such as the low number of total participants, the low heterogeneity
of Chilean cities included in the sample, and the distance data that was self-reported. In
addition, the statistical analysis performed do not allow to include variables as confounders; for
future researching, more variables identifying the two samples should be included to perform
more complex statistical regression models [
]. The main strength of the current study is the
description of the modes of commuting in Chilean children and adolescents in one of the
most important cities, especially on Easter Island. These findings contribute to the particular
knowledge of this region of South America and Maori culture. In addition, the reliability of
the questionnaire used in the study is also a strength, since it reduces the error in the answers
of the students.
There are important differences in the mode of commuting between students from the urban
areas of Valpara??so compared with students from Easter Island, who present higher values of
active modes of commuting (i.e. walking and cycling). This situation is influenced by the
cultural context of the island, the distances from home to school, and the type of commuting,
which fosters the level of active commuting. On the other hand, the passive modes of
commuting to school are higher in the mainland urban setting of Valpara??so. Consequently, the rural
setting of Easter Island seems to promote a greater level of active commuting to school.
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S1 Data. Data support in RAPA NUI.
To the municipality of Easter Island and the staff and students from San Sebastian De Akivi
School and Hermano Eugenio Eyaud School. This study was supported by the Spanish
Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness and the European Regional Development
Fund (DEP2016-75598-R, MINECO/FEDER, UE). Additionally, this study takes place thanks
to funding from the University of Granada, Plan Propio de Investigacio?n 2016, Excellence
actions: Units of Excellence; Unit of Excellence on Exercise and Health (UCEES). To PACO
project (Pedalea y Anda al Cole), from PROFITH group, University of Granada. To
CONICYT PAI-MEC program, from Education Ministry of Chile and to Carmen Sainz Quinn of
Granada University for English revision and correction of the document.
Conceptualization: Fernando Rodr??guez-Rodr??guez.
Data curation: Fernando Rodr??guez-Rodr??guez, Oscar Pakomio Jara.
Formal analysis: Fernando Rodr??guez-Rodr??guez, Palma Chillo?n.
Investigation: Fernando Rodr??guez-Rodr??guez, Oscar Pakomio Jara, Norman Macmillan
Kuthe, Palma Chillo?n.
Ram??rez-Ve?lez, Palma Chillo?n. Methodology: Fernando Rodr??guez-Rodr??guez, Manuel Herrador-Colmenero, Robinson
Project administration: Oscar Pakomio Jara.
Supervision: Fernando Rodr??guez-Rodr??guez, Palma Chillo?n.
Writing ? original draft: Fernando Rodr??guez-Rodr??guez, Manuel Herrador-Colmenero,
Writing ? review & editing: Fernando Rodr??guez-Rodr??guez, Oscar Pakomio Jara, Norman
Macmillan Kuthe, Manuel Herrador-Colmenero, Robinson Ram??rez-Ve?lez, Palma Chillo?n.
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