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An Examination of Triple Jeopardy in Rural Youth Physical Activity Participation


  • “Linking social and ecological factors to physical inactivity and obesity in youths” funded by the Georgia Biomedical Initiatives via the Georgia Center for the Prevention of Obesity and Related Disorders. For further information, contact: Kindal A. Shores, PhD, Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, Carol G. Belk Building, 1 Curry Court, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC 27858-4353; e-mail


Purpose: Chances for a healthy life are not equally distributed across society. Instead, genetic, social, and environmental factors help determine the probability that a child will be healthy and active. We investigate the probability that youth will be physically active by examining 3 consistent correlates of physical activity. The individual and interaction effects of self-efficacy, social support, and access to physical activity areas are used to predict rural youth physical activity participation. We hypothesize that youth lacking all 3 activity supports will be in “triple jeopardy” for physical activity participation.

Methods: Data were collected using a researcher-administered questionnaire with 147 youth in 2004. Youth ages 9-18 were enrolled in grades 4, 7, and 11 in 2 diverse rural counties in Georgia.

Findings: Overall, a greater number of disadvantageous statuses were related to a lower probability of physical activity participation. Low self-efficacy, low social support, and no access to physical activity areas were related to lower levels of physical activity participation among rural youth. These variables exerted a stronger impact when factors were allowed to interact than when their isolated effects were summed.

Conclusions: This study assessed correlates of physical activity among rural youth. These investigations, while scarce, can help identify subgroups of the population that may need to be targeted for intervention. Findings indicate that lived experience of youth (captured by the interaction of physical activity correlates) may be critical for understanding patterns of active and sedentary living.