Background: Interventions addressing chronic disease through physical activity are hampered by the low evidence base from rural areas. The purpose of the study was to provide information which may contribute to the development of future policy and strategy applicable to rural Queensland.
Methods: Six diverse rural shires were chosen. A mixed-method design included more than 100 interviews with community representatives; surveys to 3000 community members; audits of facilities, amenities, and other relevant resources in each shire; and detailed observation during repeated site visits.
Results: Half the respondents failed to meet Australian physical activity guidelines and 1 in 5 reported no activity. Queensland's rural communities offer good access to a wide variety of structured and nonstructured activities. Some barriers to physical activity (eg, family commitments) are similar to those reported from urban areas; however, others including climate, culture of exercise, and community leadership are unique to the rural environment.
Conclusions: Unique characteristics of rural environments and populations affect engagement in physical activity. Promotion of healthy lifestyle in rural environments need to be informed by local context and not merely extrapolated from urban situations. Attention must be paid to specific local circumstances which may affect implementation, adoption and participation.