PloS one

A Qualitative Study of Environmental Factors Important for Physical Activity in Rural Adults.

PMID 26554376


Despite increasing evidence that the physical environment impacts on physical activity among urban-dwellers, little attention has been devoted to understanding this relationship in rural populations. Work in this area is further hindered by a lack of environmental measures specifically designed for rural settings. This qualitative study aimed to explore the salience of urban physical activity environment constructs among rural adults. In 2011, 49 rural men and women from three distinct areas (coastal, animal-based farming, forestry/plant-based farming) of rural Tasmania, Australia, were purposively recruited to participate in semi-structured interviews. Interviews explored features of the built and social environment commonly examined in studies of urban adults, including functional characteristics (eg, lighting, footpaths, roads/verges), road and personal safety, availability and accessibility of places to be active, destinations, and aesthetics. Interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using a content-thematic approach using QSR NVivo software. While some urban environmental constructs were salient to these rural adults, such as availability of and accessibility to places to be active, some constructs were operationalised differently, such as road safety (where large trucks and winding roads rather than traffic density was of concern), or were not considered relevant (eg, personal safety related to crime, availability of walkable destinations, aesthetics). The measurement of the physical environment in rural populations may require reconsideration and/or modification to ensure salience and appropriate quantification of associations with physical activity in future studies.