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Access to bike lanes increases physical activity in children

One of the key questions in the active travel research space is: can bike facilities contribute to increased physical activity in children? If we build it, will they come? A new study suggests yes.

A group of researchers across several universities have conducted a systematic review of the health science literature to investigate associations between access to bike lanes and childhood obesity.

This new study, published in the journal Obesity Reviews, suggests that children will engage in increased physical activity when they have access to bike lanes.

Hoping to advance worldwide efforts to combat childhood obesity, the research group screened over 1300 existing studies and found that the overwhelming majority of relevant research showed a positive link between access to bike lanes and increased physical activity in kids.

Looking at studies from Australia around the globe, six studies reported a significant positive correlation between bike lane access and children's sports activities. One study reported that children with low access to bike paths had more sedentary time than those with medium or high access.

Unfortunately, the jury is still out on whether bike lane access directly helps burn the belly fat. There are many co-existing factors that make this particularly hard to measure, which can be as broad as the safety risks associated with bike lanes, or as specific as whether there is a Macca’s in the area. We do however know that bike education is extremely important for encouraging bike riding, specifically in children.

Nevertheless, the research findings are pretty clear: building more bike lanes is a worthy investment in getting our our kids active.

A fact that should not be lost on Australians, where one in four children are overweight or obese, a figure that hasn’t changed since 2007. Not only does this make them susceptible to adverse health risks, it makes them more likely to struggle with weight issues as they become adults.

This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.

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