Research Study Abstract

Is older adults’ physical activity during transport compensated during other activities? Comparing 4 study cohorts using GPS and accelerometer data

  • Published on March, 2019

Promoting active transport offers the potential to increase population physical activity levels. Compensation theories state that above-average physical activity in one activity is compensated in later activities; a mechanism that results in stable levels of total physical activity. Little is known about possible compensation of transport physical activity among older adults.

GPS (Global Positioning System) and accelerometer data collected among older adults (65+) were pooled from four cohorts in Canada, Luxembourg, and France (n=636, collected between 2012 and 2016). Physical activity was measured as total volume of physical activity for trips and non-trip activities. Robust linear regressions on person-centered data were used to test within-person associations between transport and total physical activity.

636 older adults – median age of 76 years, 49% women – provided accelerometer and GPS data for at least 4 days. 18% of the total volume of physical activity was related to transport. A positive association was found between physical activity during a trip and the physical activity during the next hour, among those with lower levels of regular physical activity. Negative associations – indicating partial compensation – were found between transport physical activity during a day, and both total physical activity during the next day and non-transport physical activity during the same day. No differences were found between the four study cohorts.

Transport physical activity is compensated partially by older adults during non-transport physical activity. Given the presence of compensation, we strongly recommend evaluations of transport interventions to measure and analyze both non-transport and transport physical activity.


  • Ruben Brondeel 1,2
  • Rania Wasfi 1,2
  • Camille Perchoux 3
  • Basile Chaix 4
  • Philippe Gerber 3
  • Lise Gauvin 1,2
  • Lucie Richard 5,7
  • Pierrette Gaudreau 2,6
  • Benoit Thierry 2
  • Martin Chevrier 2
  • Stine Hoj 1,2
  • Yan Kestens 1,2


  • 1

    Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, École de Santé Publique de l’Université de Montréal (ESPUM), Canada

  • 2

    University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (Centre de recherche du Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, CRHUM), Canada

  • 3

    Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research, Esch/Alzette, Luxembourg

  • 4

    INSERM, Sorbonne Université, Institut Pierre Louis d’Epidémiologie et de Santé Publique IPLESP, Nemesis team, Paris, France

  • 5

    Faculty of Nursing, Université de Montréal, Canada

  • 6

    Department of Medicine, Université de Montréal, Canada

  • 7

    Institut de recherche en santé publique, Université de Montréal (IRSPUM), Canada


Journal of Transport & Health


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