Rural-urban differences in meeting of physical activity recommendations by sun exposure and protection behaviors in the United States

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Objective: To examine associations between sun protection behaviors and physical activity (PA) by rural and urban residence in the United States. Methods: We analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2013–2018), restricting to participants ages 20–59 with sun behavior data. Sunburns, sun exposure, and sun protection measures were dichotomized (yes/no): ≥1 sunburn in the past year, 2+ hour outside during workdays or non-workdays, and never/rarely/sometimes using sunscreen, wearing long sleeves, and staying in the shade. Meeting PA recommendations (yes/no) was defined as ≥150 min of vigorous/moderate or ≥ 75 min vigorous PA per week. Associations between sun behaviors and PA were analyzed using logistic regression models, which accounted for survey-weights and potential confounders, and stratified by rural-urban status. Results: Rural and urban individuals meeting PA recommendations had greater odds of spending 2+ hour outside during workdays (OR: 2.26 [1.88, 2.74] and 3.95 [2.72, 5.73]) and non-workdays (OR: 2.06 [1.78, 2.38] and 3.33 [2.47, 4.46]). Among urban residents, odds of staying in the shade were lower among those who met PA recommendations (OR: 0.78 [0.66, 0.92]). We did not observe differences in sunburns or other sun behaviors by PA status, regardless of rurality. Conclusions: Meeting PA recommendations was associated with greater sun exposure in both rural and urban populations. Additional exercise location (indoors/outside) data is needed to inform PA and skin cancer prevention interventions to reduce unintended increases in sun exposure and reductions in PA, respectively, especially among rural populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107919
JournalPreventive medicine
StatePublished - Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Elsevier Inc.


  • Melanoma
  • Physical activity
  • Rural
  • Skin cancer
  • Sun protective behaviors
  • Sun risk behaviors
  • Urban

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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