This study explored rural-urban differences in meeting physical activity (PA) recommendations and health status in cancer survivors in central Pennsylvania and associations between PA and health status.
Cancer survivors (N = 2463) were identified through a state cancer registry and mailed questionnaires assessing PA and health status. Rural-urban residence was based on county of residence at diagnosis. Participants self-reported frequency and duration of leisure-time PA and were classified as meeting: (1) aerobic recommendations (≥ 150 min/week), (2) muscle-strengthening recommendations (≥ 2 times/week), (3) both aerobic and muscle-strengthening recommendations, or (4) neither recommendation. Logistic regression models examined associations between rural-urban residence and meeting PA recommendations and associations between PA and health status, adjusting for age, cancer type, gender, and income.
Nearly 600 (N = 591, 24.0%) cancer survivors returned completed questionnaires (rural 9.5%, urban 90.5%). Half (50.0%) of rural cancer survivors reported no leisure-time PA compared to 35.2% of urban cancer survivors (p = 0.020), and urban cancer survivors were 2.6 times more likely to meet aerobic PA recommendations (95% CI 1.1-6.4). Odds of reporting good physical and mental health were 2.3 times higher among survivors who reported meeting aerobic recommendations compared to those who did not meet PA recommendations (95% CI 1.1-4.5), adjusting for rurality and covariates.
Results demonstrate persistent rural-urban differences in meeting PA recommendations in cancer survivors and its association with self-reported health.
Findings underscore the need for interventions to increase PA in rural cancer survivors in an effort to improve health status and reduce cancer health disparities.