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Can J Public Health. 2004 Nov-Dec;95(6):413-8.

Physical activity, smoking, and obesity among Canadian school youth. Comparison between urban and rural schools.

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Faculty of Physical Education, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB.



More information is needed to document the prevalence of health risk factors in youth. The purpose of this study is to compare the prevalence of physical inactivity, smoking and overweight/obesity among youth in urban and rural schools.


Data were obtained from a Student Physical Activity and Smoking Survey of 2,697 high school students in four urban schools in Ontario and four rural schools in Alberta. Prevalence of physical inactivity was assessed by examining compliance with Canada's Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living, and with daily energy expenditure classification values. Prevalence of smoking was assessed by examining current smoking status. Overweight and obesity prevalences were examined by comparing BMI values to the BMI index for age and sex percentiles set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Physical activity prevalence was found to be low in our study, with only 57.0% of youth achieving Canada's Physical Activity Guidelines, and with 26.0% classified as sedentary based on the daily energy expenditure classification values. A higher proportion of rural students reported "trying smoking" than urban school students (73.0% versus 64.4%, p<0.001). A significantly higher proportion of rural males were 'overweight' than urban males, and a significantly higher proportion of rural females were 'obese' in comparison to urban females.


Our findings add further support for an urgent need to promote physical activity among Canadian youth. Additionally, our results suggest that it is especially important to target rural students, particularly girls, for smoking prevention programs. Future studies are required to examine such rural and urban differences within provinces.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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