A number of studies indicate higher prevalence of overweight and obesity among rural school children. The purpose of this study was to examine the differences in personal, social, and environmental correlates of physical activity between school location (urban versus rural) and gender.
Middle school children (N = 676) from different districts in Cyprus completed questionnaires assessing physical activity and potential correlates.
Children from rural schools reported higher friend support for physical activity and more ease of walk to a bus station from their home. Urban school children reported higher presence of sidewalks in their neighborhood. Boys reported more hours per day playing outside and higher enjoyment and friend support for physical activity than girls, whereas girls reported higher means in the variable ‘I see a lot of people walking or being physically active in my neighborhood’. Significant two-way interactions between gender and school location were noted with rural school girls having less favorable scores in a number of correlates of physical activity.
More studies are needed to further understand the higher incidence of overweight and obesity observed among rural youth. Girls from rural areas may be targeted as a priority group for promoting physical activity.
The author is with the Centre of Educational Research and Evaluation, Cyprus Ministry of Education and Culture, Nicosia, Cyprus, and with the Open University of Cyprus.