Characteristics of travel to and from school among adolescents in NSW, Australia


  • Attribution and funding: The NSW Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey 2004 was funded by NSW Health and the NSW Department of Education and Training. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not of NSW Health or its representatives.

Associate Professor Michael L Booth, School of Public Health, Level 2, K25 – Medical Foundation Building, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia. Fax: +61 2 9036 3184; email:


Aim:  Active transport to and from school is frequently identified as an opportunity to increase energy expenditure among young people. The epidemiology of travel behaviours among Grade 6, 8 and 10 students in NSW is reported.

Methods:  A representative population survey of students in NSW, Australia was conducted during February to May 2004 (n = 2750) and the prevalence of travelling to and from school by walking, car and public transport was determined for Grade 6, 8 and 10 students.

Results:  Among Grade 6 students, approximately 30% travelled by car, 30% walked and 20% used public transport to travel to school (the travel habits of 20% could not be accurately characterised). Among secondary school students, approximately 50% used public transport, 15–20% travelled by car and 15–20% walked. Among those who walked or used public transport, the median times spent walking were 10–15 min and 5 min per trip, respectively.

Conclusions:  While there is little scope to increase the prevalence of active transport among secondary school students, there is potential to do so among primary school students. Primary school students who replace travelling to and from school by car with walking will experience an increase in activity energy expenditure of up to 10% and those who change to public transport will experience an increase in activity energy expenditure of up to 3%.