If you walk or ride a bike to work, you may very likely influence a loved one or coworker to do the same, according to new research published in the American Journal of Health Behavior.
“Social influences are important, specifically interpersonal influences, such as spouses and co-workers,” said Melissa Bopp, Ph.D., assistant professor of kinesiology at Penn State. She added that a person’s employer, as well as the community, can also have a strong impact on whether one chooses to actively commute.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 2-1/2 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week for adults.
Active commuting — engaging in physical exercise to and from work — is one way to help people incorporate the recommended amount into their daily routines.
For the study, researchers surveyed 1,234 people, between the ages of 18 and 75, across the mid-Atlantic States. The respondents were employed full- or part-time and physically able to walk or bike to work.
They answered several questions, including:
- how they traveled to work;
- whether or not their spouse and coworkers influenced their commuting choice;
- if their employer supported actively commuting;
- how confident they were with their cycling skills, and;
- how bicycle-friendly their community was.
The findings revealed that married people were more likely to participate in active commuting than non-married people, men actively commuted more often than women and mothers were even less likely to actively commute.
They found that having a spouse who actively commutes or co-workers who actively commute had a positive influence on the decision to do the same. The perception that a spouse or co-workers would approve also had a positive influence, but with slightly less impact.
Bopp added that she was surprised at how many variables were significantly related to active commuting.
Individuals who were comfortable with their bicycling skills were more likely to actively commute, as were those who believed they had a shorter biking or walking time to work. Believing that an employer supports active commuting and working for an employer who supports it, living in a community that supports it, and believing that the community is supportive of pedestrians and bicyclists were all positively significant.
On the other hand, factors that were negatively related to active commuting included age, body mass index, number of children, number of chronic diseases and number of cars in the household.
Other factors keeping people from actively commuting included:
- a lack of on-street bike lanes, off-street paths and sidewalks;
- difficult terrain;
- bad weather, and;
- the speed and volume of traffic along the commuting route.
Bopp and colleagues believe that the findings of this study provide a foundation for large-scale strategies to target population-level active commuting patterns.
“We have to look at the complete picture and look at individual thoughts and beliefs (about it),” said Bopp. “This is a complex problem that we need to think about at multiple levels to address influences on behavior.”
Source: Penn State