Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 103, Supplement 3, pp S55–S60 | Cite as

Physical Activity and Nutrition Among Youth in Rural, Suburban and Urban Neighbourhood Types

  • Cindy ShearerEmail author
  • Chris Blanchard
  • Sara Kirk
  • Renee Lyons
  • Trevor Dummer
  • Robert Pitter
  • Daniel Rainham
  • Laurene Rehman
  • Chris Shields
  • Meaghan Sim
Quantitative Research



Physical activity and nutrition are essential to healthy living and particularly important during youth, when growth and development are key. This study examined rates of physical activity (PA) and diet quality (DQ) among youth in grades 7 to 9 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, during the 2008/09 school year and tested differences among students in rural, urban and suburban neighbourhood types of high and low socio-economic status (SES).


Youth in grades 7 through 9 (aged 12–16; 53% male) from six schools (N=380), stratified by neighbourhood type (urban, suburban, rural) |and SES, wore accelerometers for up to 7 days (mean=4.14, standard deviation=1.49) and completed a nutritional survey.


The findings suggest important differences in PA and DQ across SES and neighbourhood type. Specifically, rates of moderate to vigorous physical activity among youth from schools in lower socio-economic areas were higher in urban than in suburban or rural settings. Furthermore, DQ was better among youth in higher than in lower socio-economic urban settings.


Understanding these differences in PA and DQ across rural, urban and suburban environments of high and low SES may highlight subgroups and targeted geographic areas for the design of interventions to improve rates of PA and health nutrition.

Key words

Physical activity nutrition youth built environment socioeconomic status 

Mots clés

activité physique nutrition jeunesse milieu bâti statut socioéconomique 



L’activité physique et la nutrition sont essentiels à un mode de vie sain et particulièrement importantes durant la jeunesse, en pleine période de croissance et de développement. Nous avons examiné les taux d’activité physique (AP) et la qualité du régime (QR) d’élèves de la 7e à la 9e année à Halifax (Nouvelle-Ecosse) durant l’année scolaire 2008–2009 et évalué les écarts entre les élèves des quartiers ruraux, urbains et suburbains, de statut socioéconomique (SSE) faible et élevé.


Des jeunes de la 7e à la 9e année (de 12 à 16 ans; 53 % de garçons) fréquentant six écoles (N=380) stratifiées selon le type de quartier (urbain, suburbain, rural) et le SSE ont porté des accéléromètres pendant 7 jours ou moins (4,14 jours en moyenne, écart type de 1,49) et rempli un questionnaire sur la nutrition.


Les constatations de l’étude laissent entrevoir d’importants écarts dans l’AP et la QR selon le SSE et le type de quartier. En particulier, les taux d’activité physique modérée à vigoureuse chez les jeunes des écoles de zones socioéconomiquement faibles étaient plus élevés en milieu urbain qu’en milieu rural ou suburbain. De plus, la QR était meilleure chez les jeunes des quartiers urbains de SSE élevé plutôt que faible.


La connaissance de ces écarts dans l’AP et la QR entre les environnements ruraux, urbains et suburbains, de SSE élevé ou faible, peut faire ressortir des sous-groupes et des zones géographiques à cibler pour concevoir des interventions qui améliorent les taux d’AP et de saine alimentation.


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cindy Shearer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Chris Blanchard
    • 2
  • Sara Kirk
    • 3
  • Renee Lyons
    • 4
  • Trevor Dummer
    • 5
  • Robert Pitter
    • 6
  • Daniel Rainham
    • 7
  • Laurene Rehman
    • 3
  • Chris Shields
    • 6
  • Meaghan Sim
    • 3
  1. 1.Atlantic Health Promotion Research CentreDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.Department of MedicineDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  3. 3.School of Health and Human Performance, Faculty of Health ProfessionsDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  4. 4.Bridgepoint Collaboratory for Research and Innovation, Bridgepoint HealthUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Population Cancer Research Program, Department of PediatricsDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  6. 6.School of Recreation Management & KinesiologyAcadia UniversityWolfvilleCanada
  7. 7.Environmental Science Program, Faculty of ScienceDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada

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