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Built Environments and Active Living in Rural and Remote Areas: a Review of the Literature

Abstract

Rural children and adults are more likely to have obesity than their urban counterparts even after adjustment for individual-level behaviors, suggesting that rural environments may promote obesity. The rural built environment may be an important area of research that can help us understand rural–urban disparities in obesity. The purpose of this review is to summarize the rural built environment and active living literature, and to address key issues, gaps, and observations in the field. A literature review was conducted in spring 2015 to identify research published from 2000 to 2015. Our review suggests that limited active living built environments in rural communities and unique rural barriers to physical activity may contribute to a higher prevalence of obesity compared to urban populations. More empirical research is needed to build the evidence-base for the association between rural built environments, active living, and obesity. School- and community-based policies that expand active living opportunities in rural areas should also be closely examined.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank the staff at Active Living Research and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for supporting our formative research on active living and the rural built environment.

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Conflict of Interest

Anush Yousefian Hansen, M. Renée Umstattd Meyer, Jennifer D. Lenardson, and David Hartley declare they have no conflict of interest.

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This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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Correspondence to Anush Yousefian Hansen.

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Hansen, A.Y., Umstattd Meyer, M.R., Lenardson, J.D. et al. Built Environments and Active Living in Rural and Remote Areas: a Review of the Literature. Curr Obes Rep 4, 484–493 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13679-015-0180-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13679-015-0180-9

Keywords

  • Obesity
  • Overweight
  • Physical activity
  • Exercise
  • Transportation
  • Synthesis