Monday, May 30, 2016

Rural areas may need collaboration to create places for residents to get exercise

"Many rural mothers, who rely on outdoor activities to promote health and well-being for themselves and their families, face obstacles in accessing publicly available outdoor recreation resources." So says a study at the University of Illinois, Carleen Wild reports for HealthZette, an online publication.

Research professor Ramona Oswald told Wild, “The moms in this study know about health and what to do to be healthy. It’s not a lack of education. It has to do with barriers and access to resources. Especially in rural communities, you struggle with distance between people and resources. . . . You could walk down a county road or a highway, but unless there was community investment in a park or a playground, a walking trail, or some kind of a facility at a local school, moms didn’t have access to nature, even though they were surrounded by it.”

Many rural residents are like Heidi Baltezore, who lives in a rural area about 30 miles north of Sioux Falls, S.D. She told Wild, “My biggest struggle is finding ‘safe’ places to run or walk. I can go up and down my driveway, but I get bored with that,” and “The road that runs by my house has no shoulder — in fact, years ago my neighbor was biking and was hit and killed, so there is a worry about distracted drivers, plus normal driving hazards. The hills and the setting or rising sun also make it not an option unless I’m absolutely desperate to run on the road. And for sure, it’s never an option with the little ones or our pets.”

In Marshall, Minn., the city, a neighboring town, the county and the state parks and transportation agencies collaborated to "create an extensive bike trail system, a new ice arena, gym access to local health care providers, and more," Wild reports. Doug Goodmund, the city's assistant community services director, told her, "It's really getting used — from pedestrians, to moms with strollers, to bicyclers, young and old. It's a win-win all around and we're just getting started."

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