Active Living for Rural Children

A study to identify perceived environmental factors that support or impede rural children’s physical activity found a wide range of both opportunities for and barriers to physical activity, with a focus on rural-specific barriers.

The authors used PhotoVOICE to examine opportunities and hindrances to physical activity for children in four low-income rural communities. In 2007, parents and elementary school staff took pictures of and developed personal stories about their communities, subsequently discussing themes evidenced in their pictures in a group workshop. The authors categorized the themes using the Analysis Grid for Environments Linked to Obesity (ANGELO) framework in 2008.

Parents mostly identified barriers to activity, including distance between home and play spaces, unsafe roads and local crime; many barriers were unique to rural communities. The authors found themes related to physical (topography), sociocultural (isolation), policy (school recess time) and economic (funding for physical activity programs) factors, as well as themes related to transportation infrastructure and the built and natural environments.

Continued exploration of the way rural community members perceive the environmental factors that influence their physical activity could contribute to more effective interventions and changes to the built environment that encourage activity.