Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Original research
Is the physical activity environment surrounding primary schools associated with students’ weight status, physical activity or active transport, in regional areas of Victoria, Australia? A cross-sectional study
  1. Jane Jacobs,
  2. Nic Crooks,
  3. Steven Allender,
  4. Claudia Strugnell,
  5. Kathryn Backholer,
  6. Melanie Nichols
  1. Global Obesity Centre, Institute for Health Transformation, Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Ms Jane Jacobs; jane.jacobs{at}


Objectives To explore whether the physical activity (PA) environment (walkability, greenspace and recreational facilities) surrounding regional primary schools is associated with children’s PA levels, active transport and weight status. Limited research on this topic has been conducted outside of major cities.

Design Cross-sectional ecological study using baseline data from two large-scale obesity prevention interventions.

Setting Eighty (n=80) primary schools across two regional areas in Victoria, Australia.

Participants Students aged 8–13 years (n=2144) attending participating primary schools.

Outcome measures Measured weight status (body mass index z-score, proportion overweight/obese) and self-reported PA behaviours (meeting PA recommendations and active travel behaviour).

Results When adjusted for student and school demographics, students had significantly increased odds of using active transport to or from school when the school neighbourhood was more walkable (OR 1.21 (95% CI 1.09 to 1.35), had a greater number of greenspaces (OR 1.35 (95% CI 1.20 to 1.53)) and a greater number of recreational facilities (OR 1.18 (95% CI 1.07 to 1.31)). A higher cumulative PA environment score was also associated with a higher proportion of children using active transport (OR 1.33 (95% CI 1.28 to 1.51)). There were no significant associations between the PA environment measures and either weight status or meeting the PA recommendations in adjusted models.

Conclusions This study is the first of its kind exploring school neighbourhood environments and child weight status and PA in regional areas of Australia. It highlights the potential of the environment surrounding primary schools in contributing to students’ active travel to and from school. Further research with the use of objective PA measurement is warranted in regional areas that have been under-researched.

Trial registration number Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ( identifier 12616000980437; Results.

  • public health
  • community child health
  • sports medicine

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request to corresponding author.

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request to corresponding author.

View Full Text


  • Twitter @KBackholer

  • Contributors JJ, NC and MN conceptualised the study and initial hypothesis and collated environmental data. SA and CS conceived the WHOSTOPs study and underlying design. JJ conducted analysis and interpretation, with assistance from KB and MN. JJ prepared the manuscript. JJ, MN, NC, CS, KB and SA provided intellectual input, contributed to the development of the manuscript and have read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding This study was supported by funding from the Goulburn Valley’s Primary Care Partnership, Western Alliance, and a NHMRC Partnership Project Grant titled Whole of System Trial of Prevention Strategies for childhood obesity: WHO STOPS childhood obesity (APP1114118). NC, CS, MN, KB, JJ and SA are researchers within a NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Obesity Policy and Food Systems (APP1041020). SA would like to acknowledge funding support from VicHealth, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (GNT1151572; GNT1133090; GNT114118), the Western Alliance and the NSW Health Translational Research Grants Scheme.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research. Refer to the Methods section for further details.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.