“Active Living” Related to the Rural-Urban Continuum: A Time-Use Perspective


  • This project was funded by a Collaborative Health Research Grant from the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation (Project 2008-4669). For further information, contact: Hugh Millward, PhD, Department of Geography, Saint Mary's University, 923 Robie St., Halifax, NS B3H 3C3, Canada; e-mail hugh.millward@smu.ca.


Purpose: This paper assesses the degree to which “active living” varies along the rural-urban continuum, within the county-sized regional municipality of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Methods: Time-diary data from the Halifax Space-Time Activity Research project were used to compute daily participation rates (PRs) and time durations, at various physical effort levels, in the 4 activity domains of leisure, active transportation (AT), chores, and occupation. Geographic zones were based on the rural-urban fringe concept: the 4 zones are the Inner City (IC), Suburbs, Inner Commuter Belt (ICB), and Outer Commuter Belt (OCB). The Compendium of Physical Activities was employed to classify activity episodes into 5 effort levels. Light through maximum effort levels indicate “healthy” activities, while moderate through maximum levels indicate “aerobic” activities. Two threshold levels of “active living” were defined and calculated.

Findings: Mann-Whitney tests show that significant interzonal differences in activity-level durations exist for all domains. The IC contrasts strongly with the suburbs (more AT and active leisure, but less occupational activity), and the suburbs with the ICB, but there are fewer significant differences between the ICB and OCB. The percentage of respondents meeting “maintenance” and “enhanced” thresholds of active living is significantly higher in the OCB, and there is also significant urban-rural variation by sociodemographic characteristics.

Conclusions: Position along the rural-urban continuum is significantly related to PRs and mean durations for levels of physical activity, and to the proportion of respondents meeting threshold levels of active living.