A Systematic Review of Rural, Theory-based Physical Activity Interventions. Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVES: This systematic review synthesized the scientific literature on theory-based physical activity (PA) interventions in rural populations. METHODS: PubMed, PsycINFO, and Web of Science databases were searched to identify studies with a rural study sample, PA as a primary outcome, use of a behavioral theory or model, randomized or quasi-experimental research design, and application at the primary and/or secondary level of prevention. RESULTS: Thirty-one studies met our inclusion criteria. The Social Cognitive Theory (N = 14) and Transtheoretical Model (N = 10) were the most frequently identified theories; however, most intervention studies were informed by theory but lacked higher-level theoretical application and testing. Interventions largely took place in schools (N = 10) and with female-only samples (N = 8). Findings demonstrated that theory-based PA interventions are mostly successful at increasing PA in rural populations but require improvement. CONCLUSIONS: Future studies should incorporate higher levels of theoretical application, and should explore adapting or developing rural-specific theories. Study designs should employ more rigorous research methods to decrease bias and increase validity of findings. Follow-up assessments to determine behavioral maintenance and/or intervention sustainability are warranted. Finally, funding agencies and journals are encouraged to adopt rural-urban commuting area codes as the standard for defining rural.

published proceedings

  • Am J Health Behav

altmetric score

  • 1.75

citation count

  • 10

complete list of authors

  • Walsh, Shana M||Meyer, M RenĂ©e Umstattd||Gamble, Abigail||Patterson, Megan S||Moore, Justin B

publication date

  • May 2017