Rural Neighborhood Walkability: Implications for Assessment

Click name to view affiliation

Michelle C. Kegler
Search for other papers by Michelle C. Kegler in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
,
Iris Alcantara
Search for other papers by Iris Alcantara in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
,
Regine Haardörfer
Search for other papers by Regine Haardörfer in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
,
Alexandra Gemma
Search for other papers by Alexandra Gemma in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
,
Denise Ballard
Search for other papers by Denise Ballard in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
, and
Julie Gazmararian
Search for other papers by Julie Gazmararian in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
Restricted access

Background:

Physical activity levels, including walking, are lower in the southern U.S., particularly in rural areas. This study investigated the concept of rural neighborhood walkability to aid in developing tools for assessing walkability and to identify intervention targets in rural communities.

Methods:

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with physically active adults (n = 29) in rural Georgia. Mean age of participants was 55.9 years; 66% were male, 76% were white, and 24% were African American. Participants drew maps of their neighborhoods and discussed the relevance of typical domains of walkability to their decisions to exercise. Comparative analyses were conducted to identify major themes.

Results:

The majority felt the concept of neighborhood was applicable and viewed their neighborhood as small geographically (less than 0.5 square miles). Sidewalks were not viewed as essential for neighborhood-based physical activity and typical destinations for walking were largely absent. Destinations within walking distance included neighbors’ homes and bodies of water. Views were mixed on whether shade, safety, dogs, and aesthetics affected decisions to exercise in their neighborhoods.

Conclusions:

Measures of neighborhood walkability in rural areas should acknowledge the small size of self-defined neighborhoods, that walking in rural areas is likely for leisure time exercise, and that some domains may not be relevant.

Kegler (mkegler@emory.edu), Alcantara, Haardörfer, and Gemma are with the Dept of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, Emory Prevention Research Center, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA. Ballard is with the Cancer Coalition of South Georgia, Albany, GA. Gazmararian is with the Dept of Epidemiology, Emory Prevention Research Center, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA.

  • Collapse
  • Expand