Factors that influence physical activity: Exploring the impact of demographic and built environment variables for the communities of Osceola, Independence and West Liberty, Iowa

Hadzic, Jasna
Major Professor
Douglas Johnston
Committee Member
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Community and Regional Planning

The aim of this study was to examine recreational activity patterns and their relationship to the built environment, spatial accessibility and socio-demographic status across three different rural communities in Iowa. Data on recreational activities were derived from the results of a transportation survey (telephone, online, and mail) that is conducted on an annual basis by Iowa State University Associate Professor Julia M. Badenhope as part of the Iowa Living Roadways `Community Visioning Program General Survey'. The data for the three communities pertaining to this study came from the 2008 and 2010 survey results. The study sample contained 178, 105 and 160 randomly selected survey respondents for the three communities of Osceola, Independence and West Liberty, Iowa.

The methodology presented could be easily adopted and implemented in future projects examining the relationship between the built environment and recreational activities. Respondents along with their corresponding demographic information and activity levels, in addition to existing park locations were mapped using the Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The Network Analyst extension tool was used to measure different socio-demographic, spatial and physical factors that could potentially influence physical activities such as walking, biking, and running and these measurements were analyzed using SPSS and JMP in order to obtain the statistical significance. In addition, Anselin's Local Moran's I was utilized to measure spatial autocorrelation in order to establish the presence of clusters within the communities based on the respondents' recreational activity levels.

Statistical analyses indicated no significant relationship among the different demographic variables and the levels of recreational activities among the survey respondents of the communities of Osceola and Independence. Association was however, found between gender and walking (2-sided p-value=0.0008) for the community of West Liberty, Iowa. Spatial analyses in conjunction with statistical results indicated significant difference for the respondents of Osceola in terms of the shortest distance to a recreational facility and the two activities of running (2-sided p-value=0.0034) and biking (2-sided p-value=0.0247). For the City of West Liberty, significant relationship was found for the shortest distance to a recreational facility and overall exercise (2-sided p-value=0.0079). In general, these results indicate for the respondents of Osceola living in close proximity to recreational facilities are more likely to run and bike, while proximity can also influence overall physical activities including `other' activities for the City of West Liberty. Additionally, there was no evidence of significant clustering for the attribute of recreational activity levels of analyses. Overall, the study indicated that the relationship between the rural environment and demographic variables and recreational activity levels is not direct and more research is required to effectively measure the discrepancy in the level of physical activity in regards to the built environment and demographic variables.