Barriers to exercise/physical activity for adolescents in rural west Alabama

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Regular physical activity (PA) in childhood and adolescence improves strength and endurance, helps build healthy bones and muscles, helps control weight, reduces anxiety and stress, increases self-esteem, and may improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) shows PA trends among adolescents (defined as 13 – 18 yrs.) decrease such that the majority of adolescents are not participating in sufficient activity to meet recommended guidelines. Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) risk factors that are present in adolescence have a tendency to track into adulthood. Youth who are overweight tend to have a higher prevalence of CVD risk factors than their normal weight peers. Rural adolescents may not be engaging in PA as often as their urban counterparts due to barriers of their rural lifestyle. Many rural communities are characterized by vast distances, low socioeconomic status, transportation challenges, and low public funding levels for facilities, programs, and other public amenities. Rural residency, especially in the southern U.S. has been associated with low levels of PA. The rural population is very unique in that they have specific barriers to PA. These may be social, financial, transportation, personal (i.e. lack of time, resources, caregiver responsibilities) or environmental factors (i.e., transportation, inadequate programs, lack of facilities). The purpose of this study was to extend previous findings by surveying a large sample of rural Alabama adolescents regarding barriers to PA and surveying parents and school administrators in this regard as well. Also, this study evaluated the effect that age, race/ethnicity, gender, and SES have on barriers to PA. This study did indeed demonstrate several demographic differences concerning barriers to PA. Additionally, it demonstrated several differences between students, parents, and administrators regarding perceived barriers to PA. Finally, this study provided additional data concerning common barriers to PA reported in the literature. Gender and SES differences were found to be the two covariates that were barriers to exercise and PA in rural West Alabama adolescents.

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