Date of Award:

5-2010

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Health, Physical Education, and Recreation

Advisor/Chair:

Phillip J. Waite

Abstract

Despite great effort to improve physical activity, little success has come to pass. Due to this, some researchers have shifted from individual approaches to promoting physical activity to multilevel environmental approaches. One of these multifaceted environmental approaches is through community trails. A small body of research has suggested that community trails may be a successful ecological approach to promoting physical activity. However, the research is minimal and inconsistent in supporting effectiveness of community trails for promoting physical activity. This study sought to examine ecological factors to learn if and how they might influence trail use among women. The ecological factors measured in this study were intrapersonal (age, time, race/ethnicity), sociocultural (income, education, social support), and physical environmental (cost, convenience, safety). A survey was conducted among 67 women using a community trail in St. George, Utah during the spring of 2008. Multiple linear regression models and Pearson correlations performed measured the predictive value of the ecological influences of physical activity, studied the relationship between community trail use and physical activity, and gained a clearer understanding of the characteristics of women trail users. Eighty-four percent of the sample reported using trails for physical activity and 74% reported since they began using trails, they participated in more physical activity. Physical activity and trail use were significantly and positively correlated. Convenience, outdoors and aesthetics were reported as motivators to use trails. Sixty-nine percent of the sample perceived the trail to be very convenient and convenience significantly predicted trail use. Convenience was also significantly and negatively correlated with the distance one traveled to the trail. The remaining ecological factors failed to predict trail use. Promoting community trail use among women who live within close proximity to trails may be an effective approach to reaching out to more people in an effort to promote physical activity. This conclusion is supported by the findings that women trail users were significantly likely to use trails regularly, participate in physical activity, and live within close proximity to trails. It is inconclusive what and how other ecological factors might influence community trail use among women.

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