Rural youth are at greater risk than urban youth for obesity and physical inactivity. Active living research incorporates an ecological approach to promoting physical activity (PA) by recognizing that individual behavior, social environments, physical environments, and policies contribute to behavior change. Active living research and interventions have been limited primarily to urban settings. Because rural communities have unique environmental features and sociocultural characteristics, this project combines insights from current active living models with more focused consideration of the physical and social realities of rural areas. In this study, we report on our efforts to develop, test, and refine a conceptual model describing the interaction between the individual and the environment as it enhances or thwarts active living in rural communities. Our findings revealed a host of relevant "predisposing" and "enabling" factors, including sociodemographic, environmental, policy, and programmatic elements, that extend across the four domains of active living--transportation, recreation, occupation, and household. A one-size approach to PA promotion will not fit the needs of rural youth. Given the unique challenges that rural communities face, efforts to combat childhood obesity must consider rural residents a priority population. More research, interventions, and evaluations on ways to promote rural PA are needed.
Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy
Active Living for Rural Youth: Addressing Physical Inactivity in Rural Communities
April 15, 2009