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Physical activity in rural vs urban areas in northeast Oklahoma: A study of 5K participation

Jones, Alexis
Martin, Kaylee
Introduction/Objectives: Physical activity is one of the most important strategies for preventing and managing diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis as well as reducing all-cause mortality. Still, physical activity remains a health challenge, especially in rural communities. Residents of rural communities have fewer opportunities for physical activity participation, lower odds of meeting physical activity guidelines, and a lower overall health status when compared to their urban counterparts. The development and adaptation of evidence-based interventions for physical activity promotion in rural communities is an essential strategy to address physical activity inequities. The aim of this study was to compare participation in rural vs urban 5K races in northeast Oklahoma to determine possible interventions to increase participation in organized physical activity.
Methods: 5K race sites in the general northeast Oklahoma area were chosen at random and the first three finishers (as available) in each age group (male and female) along with their listed hometown were analyzed using GIS. A map was created for each race showing how far each participant traveled to the race.
Results: Preliminary results indicate that for rural races, participants travel 36.5% longer to attend, compared to urban races. Participants tend to travel even farther to participate in a rural trail or specialty event (62.8% farther than an urban event).
Conclusions: Physical activity and sport participation are a means to both maintain health and prevent future illnesses; however, there are inequities between urban and rural communities in terms of access to and participation in sports and organized physical activity. This preliminary study demonstrates the potential and need for rural communities to enhance physical activity and promote healthy lifestyles. Rural residents are willing to travel to participate in events and it would benefit communities to host more events in rural areas to increase participation in organized physical activity.