Environmental barriers and enablers to physical activity participation among rural adults: A qualitative study

Verity Cleland, C Hughes, Lukar Thornton, Kathryn Squibb, Alison Venn, Kylie Ball

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Issue addressed: Social-ecological models of health behaviour acknowledge environmental influences, but research examining how the environment shapes physical activity in rural settings is limited. This study aimed to explore the environmental factors that act as barriers or facilitators to physical activity participation among rural adults.
Methods: Forty-nine adults from three regions of rural Tasmania, Australia, participated in semi-structured interviews that explored features of the environment that supported or hindered physical activity. Interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically.
Results: Four key themes emerged: functionality, diversity, spaces and places for all and realistic expectations. 'Functionality' included connectivity with other destinations, distance, safety, continuity, supporting infrastructure and surfacing. While there was limited 'diversity' of structured activities and recreational facilities, the importance of easy and convenient access to a natural environment that accommodated physical activity was highlighted. 'Spaces and places for all' highlighted the importance of shared-use areas, particularly those that were family-and dog-friendly. Despite desires for more physical activity opportunities, many participants had 'realistic expectations' of what was feasible in rural settings. Conclusions: Functionality, diversity, spaces and places for all and realistic expectations were identified as considerations important for physical activity among rural adults. Further research using quantitative approaches in larger samples is needed to confirm these findings. So what? Urban-centric views of environmental influences on physical activity are unlikely to be entirely appropriate for rural areas. Evidence-based recommendations are provided for creating new or modifying existing infrastructure to support active living in rural settings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-104
Number of pages6
JournalHealth Promotion Journal of Australia
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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