Rural–Urban Differences in Physical Activity Tracking and Engagement in a Web-Based Platform

Andrew C. Pickett, Maria Bowie, Alison Berg, Samuel D. Towne, Stephanie Hollifield, Matthew Lee Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: Despite the well-established health benefits of regular participation in physical activity, most adults do not meet recommended exercise guidelines. In rural communities, limited local resources and geographic dispersion make engaging in regular activity particularly difficult. Web-based solutions offer a potential solution for addressing physical activity disparities between rural and urban areas.

METHODS: This study examined the physical activity logs of users (n = 6695) of a web-based platform called Walk Georgia, comparing residents of metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. We tabulated descriptive statistics for variables of interest, cross-tabulated for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan groups. We then used independent-samples t tests to compare logged activity between metropolitan and nonmetropolitan residing user groups.

RESULTS: In the analysis of group type (n = 6654), users were more likely to enroll in the program as part of a group than as individuals (n = 4391; 65.9%), particularly for users in metropolitan areas (3558 of 5192; 68.5%). Although the groups shared certain activities, nonmetropolitan residents were more likely than metropolitan residents to engage in maintenance-based activities. Nonmetropolitan residents earned fewer program points for their activity than metropolitan users ( P = .007), largely because of lower average exercise difficulty ( P < .001).

CONCLUSIONS: The web-based platform was effective in helping individuals track physical activity. Despite engaging in similar amounts of physical activity by time, on average, users in nonmetropolitan areas engaged in less rigorous and more maintenance-based tasks than users in metropolitan areas. One strategy for increasing physical activity among rural populations may be to leverage social support provided by group enrollment in such programming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)76-84
Number of pages9
JournalPublic Health Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023


  • exercise
  • health disparities
  • health promotion
  • technology
  • Walking
  • Exercise
  • United States
  • Rural Population
  • Humans
  • Adult
  • Urban Population
  • Internet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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