Researchers from St George’s, University of London assessed over 2000 children aged nine and 10 living in urban areas across England.
The children wore movement monitors to measure the time they spent doing light, moderate or vigorous activity and the results showed that children travelling to school by car were less active throughout the week.
The British Heart Foundation’s Associate Medical Director, Dr Mike Knapton, said: “With around a third of children classified as overweight or obese, it’s essential we do everything possible to encourage young people to lead a healthier lifestyle.
“It’s obvious that walking or cycling to school increases a child’s physical activity levels. However, this study found using public transport to travel to school also had a positive impact on children’s exercise levels.
“What is clear is that simply swapping the car for a more active journey will get kids on the move more and could help exercise to become part of their daily habits.
It’s also important for local authorities to feature public health more strongly in transport and planning policies. Safe cycling routes and good public transport links are important for everyone.”
The research was published online in the journal PLoS ONE and was funded by the British Heart Foundation, the Wellcome Trust and the National Prevention Research Initiative (NPRI).