Rural women less active than city counterparts, but why?

Pensive woman sitting on a pile of hay bales

It is well known that people who live in rural areas have poorer health than their city counterparts, and rural women are less active than city women. But what are the reasons for these differences?

The Women in Rural Areas and Physical Activity study aims to identify reasons for the lower rates of physical activity among rural women.

Dr Verity Cleland from the Menzies Research Institute Tasmania thinks that the lower physical activity levels may be due to differences in the features of the built and natural environments where rural women live, work and play.

Environmental features such as footpaths, street lighting and having common destinations within walking distance have been found to be important for physical activity among urban women.

But Dr Cleland says that because rural environments are so different from urban areas, the features important for physical activity are also likely to be different.

“Rural areas are typically characterised by large open spaces, low population densities, and limited access to places to be active such as walking and cycling tracks and recreational centres.

“But there has been little research that has tried to understand how features of the environment influence rural women’s participation in physical activities such as walking , cycling and other forms of exercise,” Dr Cleland said.

“We would like to hear from rural women about these issues, and listen to their ideas for any changes that could be made to the environment that might support them in being more active. This research aims to identify the major barriers to physical activity among rural women, and see if we can find ways to overcome these barriers.”

“We are seeking women living in Geeveston, the Central Highlands, and the Ulverstone and Penguin area to participate in a one-hour interview. We hope to hear from a broad range of rural women, including those who are active and those who are not, women with and without children, women who work and those who don’t, and women who live on small, medium and large properties”.

Dr Cleland says that rural residents are often overlooked in research, but understanding the health behaviours of rural Tasmanians is of great importance because they make up a large proportion of the state’s population. Tasmania is the only state in Australia where more people live outside the capital city than in it.

The findings will help to influence future programs and policies to promote physical activity, which will in turn mean better health for rural women.

To be involved in this research project:  Women aged 18-55 years who live in Geeveston, Bothwell, Hamilton, Ouse, Penguin or Ulverstone are asked to register their interest by calling 6226 7712 or emailing [email protected]