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J Sci Med Sport. 2012 Jan;15(1):32-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2011.05.011. Epub 2011 Jul 13.

Physical activity and screen time behaviour in metropolitan, regional and rural adolescents: a -sectional study of Australians aged 9-16 years.

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Nutritional Physiology Research Centre, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.



While there is consistent evidence that rural adults in Australia are less active than their urban counterparts, studies relating geographical remoteness to activity patterns in Australian adolescents have yielded inconsistent results. The aim of this study was to describe objectively and subjectively measured patterns of physical activity and sedentary behaviours across remoteness categories in a representative sample of 9-16 year old Australians.


Cross-sectional observational study.


2071 Australian adolescents provided self-report use of time data on four days and wore a pedometer for at least 6 days within the 2007 Australian National Children's Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey. Comparisons of activity patterns were made across four objectively-determined remoteness categories (Major City, Inner Regional, Outer Regional and Remote), adjusting for household income, parental education and age.


Adolescents living in major cities self-reported 11-29 min less moderate to vigorous physical activity each day than their counterparts living in geographically more remote areas, and took 150-850 fewer steps each day. While there were no differences in time spent in sport or active transport, differences in free play participation were significant. Males in major cities also reported higher levels of screen time. Differences were somewhat more marked among males than among females.


Activity levels among Australian adolescents show contrasting patterns of geographical differences to those found in Australian adults. Higher levels of free play among rural Australian adolescents may be due to more available space and less fear of traffic and stranger risks.

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