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The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12889-015-2411-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
KS, DA, AD, JW, SE and PKD developed survey instruments and carried out the data collection. AJM and AAL cleaned and analysed the data. AJM, AAL and CM wrote the first draft of the manuscript. All authors provided input and approved the final version for submission.
Data on use and health benefits of active travel in rural low- and middle- income country settings are sparse. We aimed to examine correlates of active travel, and its association with adiposity, in rural India and Bangladesh.
Cross sectional study of 2,122 adults (≥18 years) sampled in 2011–13 from two rural sites in India (Goa and Chennai) and one in Bangladesh (Matlab). Logistic regression was used to examine whether ≥150 min/week of active travel was associated with socio-demographic indices, smoking, oil/butter consumption, and additional physical activity. Adjusting for these same factors, associations between active travel and BMI, waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio were examined using linear and logistic regression.
Forty-six percent of the sample achieved recommended levels of physical activity (≥150 min/week) through active travel alone (range: 33.1 % in Matlab to 54.8 % in Goa). This was more frequent among smokers (adjusted odds ratio 1.36, 95 % confidence interval 1.07–1.72; p = 0.011) and those that spent ≥150 min/week in work-based physical activity (OR 1.71, 1.35–2.16; p < 0.001), but less frequent among females than males (OR 0.25, 0.20–0.31; p < 0.001). In fully adjusted analyses, ≥150 min/week of active travel was associated with lower BMI (adjusted coefficient −0.39 kg/m2, −0.77 to −0.02; p = 0.037) and a lower likelihood of high waist circumference (OR 0.77, 0.63–0.96; p = 0.018) and high waist-to-hip ratio (OR 0.72, 0.58–0.89; p = 0.002).
Use of active travel for ≥150 min/week was associated with being male, smoking, and higher levels of work-based physical activity. It was associated with lower BMI, and lower risk of a high waist circumference or high waist-to-hip ratio. Promotion of active travel is an important component of strategies to address the growing prevalence of overweight in rural low- and middle- income country settings.