Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2009

Degree Name

MS (Master of Science)

Degree In


First Advisor

Janz, Kathleen F

First Committee Member

Dennis, Leslie K

Second Committee Member

Levy, Steven M

Third Committee Member

Smith, Brian J

Fourth Committee Member

Romitti, Paul A


A better understanding of the association of the environment to young children's physical activity is needed to design effective behavioral interventions and to improve communities' infrastructures in ways that support the development of healthy behaviors.

This thesis used data from the Iowa Bone Development Study (IBDS) to examine activity behaviors of young children in urban and rural Iowa. Mean daily minutes of moderate through vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and vigorous physical activity (VPA), as recorded by accelerometry-based physical activity monitoring in the IBDS, were compared by level of socioeconomic status (SES) and census block type (urban or rural). Media use (television and videogames), in hours per day by parental report, was similarly compared. Logistic regression was used to assess the association of census block type (urban or rural) with lower categories of MVPA and VPA, and with a high category of media use (exceeding the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendation for ≤ 2 hours/day of media).

Mean age of the 400 participants included in this thesis was 5.65 years (SD = 0.53), females comprised 53.5%. Children's mean daily minutes of MVPA and VPA were not significantly different among SES levels nor between urban and rural census blocks. Rural children had decreased odds for lower categories of MVPA (Boys' OR 0.91; 95% CI: 0.51, 1.60) (Girls' OR 0.89; 95% CI: 0.53, 1.50) and VPA (Boys' OR 0.84; 95% CI: 0.48, 1.48) (Girls' OR 0.90; 95% CI: 0.54, 1.52), but not significantly so.

Lower SES boys and girls engaged in more daily media use (hours/day) than higher SES children, and a higher proportion of low SES children exceeded the AAP recommendation than did middle-level or high SES children. Rural boys' media use (2.7 hours/day) was higher than that of urban boys (2.3 hours/day) (95% CI: 0.06, 0.80 hours/day), whereas urban and rural girls' media hours/day were not significantly different. Odds for excess media use were higher for rural boys (OR 2.11; 95% CI: 1.14, 3.11) and for low SES boys (OR 2.99; 95% CI: 1.34 6.68), as well as for low SES girls (OR 4.12; 95% CI: 1.95, 8.71).

Although rural and urban children's MVPA and VPA did not differ in this thesis, rural and low SES boys had both higher daily media hours and increased odds for exceeding AAP media recommendations. Odds for excess media also were increased for low SES girls. Interventions to improve healthy behaviors of young children by limiting screen-based recreation and/or supplying means for alternate activity and play opportunities may be especially beneficial when focused on lower SES and rural areas.


accelerometry, physical activity, rural, urban, urban planning


vi, 54 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 45-54).


Copyright 2009 Elaine Constance Cooperstein