Active Living In Rural Appalachia: Using The Rural Active Living Assessment (RALA) Tools To Explore Environmental Barriers

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Adam Hege PhD, Assistant Professor (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
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Abstract: People residing in rural communities are more likely to be physically inactive and subsequently have elevated risks for chronic disease. Recent evidence has shown this could stem from environmental barriers, inadequate programming and policies directed at the promotion of physical activity (PA) in rural settings. The objective of this research was to assess active living features in rural towns and townships (n = 16) across seven counties in northwestern North Carolina (NC). The study utilized the Town-Wide and Street Segment components of the Rural Active Living Assessment (RALA) as well as the 2014 American Community Survey results. The assessments were conducted in the summer of 2016 in the rural Appalachia region of NC. Using the RALA town-wide assessment scoring system (0 -100), the range of scores was 18–84, with the mean being 50.06. Three towns had no sidewalks, nine towns had sidewalks on only one side of the main streets, and four had sidewalks on both sides of the main streets. One town was rated as highly walkable, seven towns as moderately walkable, five towns as moderately unwalkable, and three towns as highly unwalkable. The rural Appalachia region of NC offers unique topographic, geographic and environmental barriers to PA. However, our findings indicate many rural towns offer common PA amenities. Future research should utilize qualitative methods and a community-based participatory research approach to more fully understand the challenges with increasing PA in the rural and often isolated Appalachia communities.

Additional Information

Hege, A., Christiana, R., Battista, R., & Parkhurst, H. (2017). Active living in rural Appalachia: Using the rural active living assessment (RALA) tools to explore environmental barriers. Preventive Medicine Reports, Vol. 8, December 2017, pages 261-266. Under a Creative Commons license. Publisher version of record available at:
Language: English
Date: 2017
Rural active living assessment (RALA), Health disparities, Physical activity, Rural Appalachia

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