Built environments and active living in rural and remote areas: A review of the literature

Document Type


Publication Date



Access/Insurance, MRHRC, population health, active living, rural

Publication Title

Current Obesity Reports


Rural children and adults are more likely to have obesity than their urban counterparts even after adjustment for individual-level behaviors, suggesting that rural environments may promote obesity. The rural built environment may be an important area of research that can help us understand rural–urban disparities in obesity. The purpose of this review is to summarize the rural built environment and active living literature, and to address key issues, gaps, and observations in the field. A literature review was conducted in spring 2015 to identify research published from 2000 to 2015. Our review suggests that limited active living built environments in rural communities and unique rural barriers to physical activity may contribute to a higher prevalence of obesity compared to urban populations. More empirical research is needed to build the evidence-base for the association between rural built environments, active living, and obesity. School- and community-based policies that expand active living opportunities in rural areas should also be closely examined.