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Logo of jepicomhJournal of Epidemiology and Community HealthVisit this articleSubmit a manuscriptReceive email alertsContact usBMJ
J Epidemiol Community Health. 2003 January; 57(1): 29–35.
PMCID: PMC1732269

Differential correlates of physical activity in urban and rural adults of various socioeconomic backgrounds in the United States


Study objectives: Few studies have analysed the rates and correlates of physical activity in economically and geographically diverse populations. Objectives were to examine: (1) urban-rural differences in physical activity by several demographic, geographical, environmental, and psychosocial variables, (2) patterns in environmental and policy factors across urban-rural setting and socioeconomic groups, (3) socioeconomic differences in physical activity across the same set of variables, and (4) possible correlations of these patterns with meeting of physical activity recommendations.

Design: A cross sectional study with an over sampling of lower income adults was conducted in 1999–2000.

Setting: United States.

Participants: 1818 United States adults.

Main results: Lower income residents were less likely than higher income residents to meet physical activity recommendations. Rural residents were least likely to meet recommendations; suburban residents were most likely to meet recommendations. Suburban, higher income residents were more than twice as likely to meet recommendations than rural, lower income residents. Significant differences across income levels and urban/rural areas were found for those reporting neighbourhood streets, parks, and malls as places to exercise; fear of injury, being in poor health, or dislike as barriers to exercise and those reporting encouragement from relatives as social support for exercise. Evidence of a positive dose-response relation emerged between number of places to exercise and likelihood to meet recommendations for physical activity.

Conclusions: Both income level and urban rural status were important predictors of adults' likelihood to meet physical activity recommendations. In addition, environmental variables vary in importance across socioeconomic status and urban-rural areas.

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