“Is Plymouth an Activity Friendly Rural Community?” Locals Weigh In

March 13th, 2009 by Adam

How do rural people view their community as a place for healthy active living? What are their perceptions of the town’s opportunities and obstacles to physical activity for all?

PSU’s Center for Active Living and Healthy Communities recently collaborated with local residents to answer the question, “Is Plymouth an Activity Friendly Rural Community?” Rural residents and communities face many challenges as well as opportunities for promoting physical activity, health, and well-being that are different from those found in urban and suburban settings. Additionally, most physical activity promotion strategies emphasize individual behaviors in non-rural conditions, such as biking to work and walking to school.

PSU Health and Human Performance Professor Dr. Deborah John said the Partners Enabling Active Rural Living (PEARL) collaboration will benefit the people, the community and the region.

“Our goal is to partner with local communities and support their efforts to improve health and physical activity opportunities for all residents,” said John. “This might mean helping people to share their different perceptions of the unique health-impacting attributes of the rural places in which they live, work and play.”

Using a community-based framework, Plymouth’s recent physical activity-focused conversation followed a town-wide, participatory photo mapping. Plymouth residents, teamed with PSU students and faculty, mapped town features using digital photography and geographic information system technologies. After photo mapping the town’s physical activity attributes, the townspeople came together to talk about the photos and share their meanings. The project findings, including the residents’ perceptions of the town assets, will be used to inform planning, actions, and policies intended to enrich and improve the town’s physical activity features.

Features of rural places, such as parks and trails, recreational facilities, sidewalks and town centers, traffic patterns and rural roads, and rural occupations and home life, differently influence physical activity behaviors across different groups of people, including their activity choices, interests, levels, and frequency, as well as activity-related health outcomes. PSU’s Center for Active Living and Healthy Communities is committed to working with all residents, groups, communities, and policy makers to increase opportunities for and remove barriers to healthy, active rural lifestyles.

“We need to make healthy choices easy choices for rural people in rural places,” John said.

The Partners Enabling Active Rural Living (PEARL) project, which was funded in 2008 by a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant, establishes academic-community partnerships that focus on physically active lifestyles and foster community environments that are opportunistic for healthy, active living across the lifespan.

The PEARL project will extend to other rural communities later this spring, specifically Rumney and Warren.

For more information about this release, contact Bruce Lyndes, PSU Media Relations Mgr., (603) 535-2775 or Bruce Lyndes