Physical activity is associated with improved physical and mental health among children, but many children do not meet the recommended hour per day of moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity (MVPA). The aim of this paper is to investigate participation in active after-school clubs and active travel to and from school at age 11 and estimate the average daily minutes of MVPA associated with active club attendance and active travel.
Accelerometer data were collected on three weekdays for 1296 11-year-old children in a cross-sectional study. Children reported attendance at active after-school clubs and how they travelled to and from school for each day of the week. To account for repeat days within child and clustering within schools we used multilevel models with random effects at the school and child level, and fixed effects for all covariates. We calculated odds ratios for participation in active after-school clubs and active travel for gender, measures of socio-economic position and BMI category. We also explored the association between active club attendance, active travel and daily average MVPA.
Boys and girls were equally likely to attend active after-school clubs. Boys were more likely to travel to school using active modes. Attendance at active after school clubs and active travel home were not associated with each other. Attending an active after-school club was associated with an additional 7.6 min (95% CI: 5.0 to 10.3) average MVPA on that day among both boys and girls. Active travel was associated with an additional 4.7 min (95% CI: 2.9 to 6.5) average MVPA per journey for boys and 2.4 min (95% CI: 1.0 to 3.7) for girls.
Both active after-school clubs and active travel are associated with greater physical activity on the day that children participate in these, and we saw no evidence that those attending active clubs do so at the expense of active travel home afterwards. While the increased daily MVPA is small to moderate, active after-school clubs and active travel on multiple days of the week could make important contributions as part of complex interventions aimed at increasing population levels of physical activity in children.