Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Differences in the Correlates of Physical Activity between Urban and Rural Canadian Youth

Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Differences in the Correlates of Physical Activity between Urban and Rural Canadian Youth

Article excerpt

Health benefits of physical activity (PA) in young people include decreased overweight and obesity, increased psychological well-being, improved health in adulthood, and a carryover of PA behavior to adulthood. (1-3) However, despite such benefits, data from Canada and the United States indicate that proportions of young people engaging in PA have steadily decreased; (4-6) approximately 40% of children and adolescents in the United States fail to participate in regular vigorous PA. (4) It is therefore imperative to design intervention programs to increase the proportion of young people participating in PA. Truly, effective PA interventions should be based on knowledge of the correlates of PA in youth. (7)

Review studies on the correlates of youth PA indicate that this is a multifactorial behavior, influenced by demographic, biological, psychological, social, and environmental factors. (7,8) The demographic factors of gender and age are the most frequently studied correlates. Studies consistently indicate that boys are more active than girls (9,10) and that rapid declines in PA occur around the age of 12. (4,11)

Psychological variables including self-efficacy and perceptions of sport competence have also been studied. Self-efficacy has been found to be significantly associated with vigorous PA in both girls and boys across junior and high school populations. (12,13) Perceptions of sport competence have also been significantly related to adolescents' PA in studies conducted in Canada (14) and Estonia. (15)

A number of behavioral, social, and environmental variables and their association with PA have also been examined. Sallis et al (16,17) incorporated variables from all these levels in their studies, highlighting recent calls in the literature to adopt ecological models that postulate that multiple levels of the environment influence PA behavior. (8) In 2 studies reporting results in the correlates of PA among children and youth, Sallis et al (16,17) found that the most consistent correlate of PA was use of recreational time for sports and PA than for sedentary pursuits. Interestingly, environmental variables explained no variance in PA at the multivariate level in 1 study (17) and no or minimal variance in the other study. (16) The former study however indicated that peer support was one of the most consistent correlates of PA, while the latter study suggested that family support for PA was a consistent correlate of PA across different subgroups. These findings are in agreement with results from studies conducted in Estonia, whereby parents', siblings', and best friends' PA levels accounted for a relatively small but meaningful amount (1-10%) of the variance in adolescents' PA levels. (10,18)

Although a number of variables have been found to be associated with PA, in a recent review Sallis et al (7) concluded that more correlates derived from theories and models need to be evaluated. Additionally, studying PA correlates can help identify subgroups of the population with low prevalence of PA that may need to be targeted for special intervention programs. (16) Indeed, Morgan et al (19) note that calls for subgroup-specific analyses have largely gone unheeded. One area that lacks evidence is that of regional differences, where according to Pratt et al (4) much additional work is needed. Urban and rural areas, for example, constitute different geographical locations and adolescents from these 2 areas constitute 2 distinct subgroups. Studies to date assessing differences in the correlates of PA among urban and rural youth are scarce. Two studies were located, with 1 assessing differences in PA levels between urban and rural eighth-grade girls in the United States (20) and the other assessing differences in PA levels and environmental correlates between urban and rural elementary school children in Cyprus. (21) The purpose of the present study therefore was to assess differences in the correlates of PA between urban and rural Canadian adolescents. …

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