Active travel intervention and physical activity behaviour: An evaluation

Patricia Norwood, Barbara Eberth, Shelley Farrar, Jillian Anable, Anne Ludbrook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)


A physically active lifestyle is an important contributor to individual health and well-being. The evidence linking higher physical activity levels with better levels of morbidity and mortality is well understood. Despite this, physical inactivity remains a major global risk factor for mortality and, consequently, encouraging individuals to pursue physically active lifestyles has been an integral part of public health policy in many countries. Physical activity promotion and interventions are now firmly on national health policy agendas, including policies that promote active travel such as walking and cycling. This study evaluates one such active travel initiative, the Smarter Choices, Smarter Places programme in Scotland, intended to encourage uptake of walking, cycling and the use of public transport as more active forms of travel. House to house surveys were conducted before and after the programme intervention, in May/June 2009 and 2012 (12,411 surveys in 2009 and 9542 in 2012), for the evaluation of the programme. This paper analyses the physical activity data collected, focussing on what can be inferred from the initiative with regards to adult uptake of physical activity participation and whether, for those who participated in physical activity, the initiative impacted on meeting recommended physical activity guidelines. The results suggest that the initiative impacted positively on the likelihood of physical activity participation and meeting the recommended physical activity guidelines. Individuals in the intervention areas were on average 6% more likely to meet the physical activity guidelines compared to individuals in the non intervention areas. However, the absolute prevalence of physical activity participation declined in both intervention and control areas over time. Our evaluation of this active transport initiative indicates that similar programmes may aid in contributing to achieving physical activity targets and adds to the international evidence base on the benefits of active travel interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-58
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Early online date4 May 2014
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014


  • Scotland
  • physical activity
  • active travel
  • sample selection
  • difference-in-differences


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