Personal, social, and environmental correlates of physical activity in adults living in rural south-west England: a cross-sectional analysis

Emma Solomon, Tim Rees, Obioha C Ukoumunne, Brad Metcalf, Melvyn Hillsdon
International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2013, 10: 129

BACKGROUND: Despite the health risks, physical inactivity is common. Identifying the correlates of physical activity to inform the design of interventions to reduce the disease burden associated with physical inactivity is a public health imperative. Rural adults have a unique set of characteristics influencing their activity behaviour, and are typically understudied, especially in England. The aim of this study was to identify the personal, social, and environmental correlates of physical activity in adults living in rural villages.

METHODS: The study used baseline data from 2415 adults (response rate: 37.7%) participating in the first time period of a stepped-wedge cluster randomised trial, conducted in 128 rural villages from south-west England. Data collected included demographic characteristics, social factors, perception of the local environment, village level factors (percentage male, mean age, population density, Index of Multiple Deprivation, and sport market segmentation), and physical activity behaviour. Random effects ("multilevel") logistic regression models were fitted to the binary outcome whether individuals met physical activity guidelines, and random effects linear regression models were fitted to the continuous outcome MET-minutes per week leisure time physical activity, using the personal, social, environmental, and village-level factors as predictors.

RESULTS: The following factors both increased the odds of meeting the recommended activity guidelines and were associated with more leisure-time physical activity: being male (p = 0.002), in good health (p < 0.001), greater commitment to being more active (p = 0.002), favourable activity social norms (p = 0.004), greater physical activity habit (p < 0.001), and recent use of recreational facilities (p = 0.01). In addition, there was evidence (p < 0.05) that younger age, lower body mass index, having a physical occupation, dog ownership, inconvenience of public transport, and using recreational facilities outside the local village were associated with greater reported leisure-time physical activity. None of the village-level factors were associated with physical activity.

CONCLUSIONS: This study adds to the current literature on the correlates of physical activity behaviour by focusing on a population exposed to unique environmental conditions. It highlights potentially important correlates of physical activity that could be the focus of interventions targeting rural populations, and demonstrates the need to examine rural adults separately from their urban counterparts.

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