Recreation and Sport Studies

Studying, Experiencing and Facilitating Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport through Wellness and Physical Activity

Physical Literacy – Urban vs. Rural Areas


Physical literacy in urban and rural areas should be significantly different, but it mostly depends on your family and your neighborhood. As we all know, physical literacy is the mastering of fundamental movement skills and fundamental sport skills that permit a child to read their environment and make appropriate decisions, allowing them to move confidently and with control in a wide range of physical activity situations (Mandigo, Francis, Lodewyk & Lopez, 2009). Many people suggest that physical literacy “just happens” in child development. This is only true in certain children who are raised in environments where physical activity is encouraged but is also a way of life. On the other hand, some children are raised in more dangerous environments where free physical activity is not encouraged, in order to stay safe. Physical literacy can be developed through a sport or activity, or acquired through the movements that you are comfortable with naturally.

Screen time is becoming the first choice for many, so this means there are less physically literate youth today in both rural and urban areas. For all children, it seems that their parents want what is “safest” for them, so they could end up just putting them in front of a screen to keep them occupied instead of sending them outside to play with friends. Recesses are becoming shorter and physical education classes are no longer mandatory in every school.

Initially, we assumed that there was a cut and dry difference between rural and urban physical literacy, but we found out they were pretty similar. When looking at rural communities, they could have smaller opportunities for recreation and sport activities, or longer commutes to participate in activities (especially if they live in really small areas). On the other hand, some rural communities have loads of recreational activities and yard space so the kids can start working on fundamental movements at a young age. Most of the time, rural town residents are able to walk most places they need to go. When looking at urban communities, there could be an outstanding number of recreational and sporting activities, but more competition. Individuals in this area may have to drive to most of the places they go, which means they will not spend as much time outside.

This ties into Recreation and Sport Studies because people who are working in education, recreation, and sport are they key individuals for developing physical literacy in this nation (Anonymous, 2014). We have the knowledge to educate youth and adults on how to become physically literate no matter what type of community we are in. Recreation and Sport professionals realize that physical literacy is a universal concern, and is not isolated to one type of community.

There are some really cool ideas that some schools are doing to help more people become physically literate in urban areas. There was a school in Northwest Calgary that are encouraging their kids to skip, hop, jump, or dance in the hallways. They put colored tiles in their school and made up patterns to help build math skills and work on wellness at the same time. Even something like adding piano tiles on a staircase can encourage people to take the stairs versus the elevators.

The main idea is to have fun. No matter if you are in a rural or urban area, initiatives can be taken to persuade people to be more physically active and thus, more physically literate. The more a person is active, the more likely they are to improve their basic physical literacy skills.

What other changes can be made in urban communities to make sure kids are gaining the knowledge they need to be physically literate?

-Sarah Holt & Meggie Spicer


Anonymous. (January 01, 2014). Physical Literacy Assessment in Canada. Physical & Health Education Journal, 80, 1, 38-40

Mandigo, J., Francis, N., Lodewyk, K., & Lopez, R. (December 07, 2009). Physical Literacy for Educators. Physical & Health Education Journal, 75, 3, 27-30.

Other Links

Piano stairs

Other articles about physical literacy

2 thoughts on “Physical Literacy – Urban vs. Rural Areas

  1. “Most of the time, rural town residents are able to walk most places they need to go. Individuals in urban areas may have to drive to most of the places they go, which means they will not spend as much time outside.”

    This is some backwards logic as rural communities tend to be associated longer commutes into towns. Cities tend to be more centralized, thus more susceptibility for active travel. Urban areas tend to have a higher concentration of employment as well; rural areas have lower concentrations of employment, thus higher probability of longer commutes (Joan, E. 2003 & Champion, T). This is not only shown empirically, but also through common sense from pure observation here in the maritime s. What is more, rural communities generally have higher rates of obesity. Even then, commute times may not be as good of a predictor of ones body weight, which as we know is one of the key agendas of physical literacy. “No association was found between inactive commute duration and PA level; however, an inverse association was found between inactive commute duration and bodyweight status, such that children commuting longer are significantly less likely to be overweight or obese (Richard 2014, Ontario).”


    • We both come from rural communities, but are both completely different. One of us lives in a rural community, where, like an urban city, is more centralized and allows for susceptibility for active travel. The other one of us from a rural community as well, is associated with longer commutes. The same things can be done while talking about urban communities. Some can be more centralized, some may need longer commutes. Everyone is going to see it differently, depends on how they take on their own living conditions! We were going based on our own experiences and other places we have been.


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