Active Living for Rural Youth

Addressing Physical Inactivity in Rural Communities

Lack of transportation to and from school-based programs was found to be a leading barrier to physical activity (PA) among children in rural communities in Maine. The built and natural environments of three rural towns were obstacles to PA.

This exploratory study used active living concepts to investigate factors that support and discourage PA among rural youth. The authors combined surveys of the physical environment with focus group data and interviews with children, parents and officials. They selected towns that represented different geographic and layout types (i.e., those with or without town centers and with differing street grid patterns). Trained university research staff led focus groups composed of low-income youth in grades four through 12. 

Key Findings: 

  • Fear of crime in public areas was found to be a significant deterrent of PA.
  • Maintaining a vibrant town center might encourage residents to be active during their daily activities and be an incentive for children to walk and bike into town.

Rural communities face obstacles to PA that are distinct from those found in urban and suburban environments. This report applies active living concepts, which emphasize the complex interaction of environmental factors with individual behaviors, to a study of PA among rural youth.