RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014

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381 Exercise and environment: new geographies of the exercise experience and learning from them (3)
Affiliation Geography of Health Research Group
Convenor(s) Russell Hitchings (University College London, UK)
Alan Latham (University College London, UK)
Andrew Barnfield (University College London, UK)
Chair(s) Alan Latham (University College London, UK)
Timetable Friday 29 August 2014, Session 3 (14:40 - 16:20)
Room Huxley Building, Room 342
Session abstract Physical fitness practices are part of the background of contemporary life. Jogging, cycling, walking, swimming, weight training, roller blading, dancing, playing and training for all kinds of sports animate people’s everyday worlds in all sorts of significant and often surprising ways. These practices can be approached as palliatives to the sedentarism of much of modern life, as ways of caring for body and self, as forms of self or group expression, as the foci of different socialities, and as sites of bodily and environmental innovation. Yet despite this diversity, the physical experience of undertaking these various practices has yet to receive the social scientific attention it deserves. This is surprising when an appreciation of how and why people come to exercise in some ways and places instead of others stands to generate new insights for policy agendas that span those associated with public health promotion and the fight against obesity, to the encouragement of community cohesion and wider social wellbeing.

This set of paper sessions begins with the assumption that it is worth considering the material composition of contemporary exercise ecologies in terms of how different exercise environments are physically experienced and how identified exercise practices become attached to them. In particular, we are interested in research centred on the changing ways in which exercise is done and how the contextual attunement that may be said to characterise a geographical approach to this topic may serve to enliven our understanding of the matter. Assembling a range of scholars working on these topics, these sessions are designed to examine and evaluate an emerging body of academic research focused on the changing practices and spaces associated with everyday exercise and their sometimes hidden dynamics and dispositions. We do so because such approaches promise to provide a fresh perspective on how health and wellbeing is considered in academic research and to breathe new life into wider debates concerning how and where exercise is done today, and how and where it should be done tomorrow.
Linked Sessions Exercise and environment: new geographies of the exercise experience and learning from them (1)
Exercise and environment: new geographies of the exercise experience and learning from them (2)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2014@rgs.org
The Bank, the Bike, and the Mayor: Cycling, (the) Capital & ‘Civility
Michael Silk (Bath University, UK)
David L. Andrews (University of Maryland, USA)
Through illuminating the multi-discursive (political, social and moral) constitution of the Barclays Bicycle Hire Scheme (BCH), we offer a multi-dimensional account of the complex manner in which bodies, power, mobility, urban environments and ‘exercise’ intersect within London (Morris 2004). To capture the detailed stories and lived experiences of those who use (and those who do not use) the BCH scheme, we used techniques of participant-employed photography (PEP) (Hurworth 2003) that involved photographs being taken by participants which were then used to elicit the participant-photographer’s own narrative. The composite stories and visuals that developed from these data, raise important questions about the relationships between material transformations of place, governance, discourses of fear, regulation and security, and the attendant, mutual, constitution of bodies and place especially as they articulate with the ways in which citizens are increasingly subjected to and “incited to participate in the spatialization of ‘healthification’ (Fusco, 2007, 44). Our discussion centres on how power geometrics (Massey, 1994) underpin neoliberal rationalities as they are manifest within city spaces and suggest that the ‘right to citizenship’ under regimes of neoliberal healthification is conditional, contingent and highly constrained. In this regard, we conclude that the BCH acts as a regime of healthification (Fusco, 2006; 2012) that circulates techniques for a government of the self; a component in the neoliberal reinvention of ‘welfare’ that promotes ‘choice’, personal accountability, consumerism, and, self-empowerment as ethics of citizenship. This discussion further attunes us to
the gendered meanings and power relations embedded within particular form of ‘soft’ (im)mobility within the confines of a neoliberal regulatory capitalism.
Gendered Runscapes: empowerment, fear and perceptions of the city at night
Stephanie Merchant (Bath University, UK)
Geographers have devoted considerable attention to studying the relationships between various aspects of leisure/sport and gender, as well as between gender and experiences of urban fear, yet the links between these bodies of literature have yet to be explored in detail. Whilst previously fear was seen to be the product of the man-made, built environment and therefore located in public space, feminist researchers began to argue that other aspects of identity interweave with gender, such as age and class as well as the activities being carried out, to affect the way that women situate notions of danger within the urban environment (Mehta 1999, Pain 2001). In this paper, by drawing on a combination of (auto)ethnographic video methods and qualitative questionnaires, I seek to build on this research with a more contemporary analysis of women’s experiences of the city, as they run at night (Krenichyn 2004). I will draw out the links and inconsistencies between the ethos of national running communities such as Women’s Running Network/Women On The Run (providing safety in numbers), the feminist movement Reclaim the Night and social narratives concerning physical fitness and empowerment, to argue that the act of running, involvement in virtual and tangible running communities, and the use of associated running technologies, together work to challenge normalized, gendered, conceptions of urban space at night. As a result this paper not only contributes to a growing body of literature concerning experiences of urban space, leisure/sport and gender, but it also explores novel, interactive, approaches to capturing and presenting sensory and emotional ‘data’.
Hiking, treadmilling and being a couch potato – place, exercise and the affordance of health
Gunnthora Olafsdottir (Universite du Luxembourg, Luxembourg)
Paul Cloke (University of Exeter, UK)
Claus Voegele (University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg)
This paper reports preliminary findings from an ongoing inter-disciplinary research project (BREATH) that brings together different concepts and methods from environmental and health psychology, and health geography to address the relationships between the environment and human health and wellbeing. The research uses both qualitative and quantitative methods to examine the environmental role of exercise in a range of contexts on the potential affordance of health and well-being. This paper presents a phenomenological interpretation of experiences reported by participants in a randomized, controlled intervention trial, in which 90 healthy, physically inactive, university students were randomly allocated to three activities - walking on a treadmill in a gym, walking in semi-natural recreational area, and sitting and watching nature-based videos on TV. Engagement with participants occurred during both relaxed (non-examination periods) and stressful periods of their lives (examination periods). Findings indicate significant connections between nonhuman/material agency, human engagement, everyday politics of practice and human well-being.
Changing landscape, changing habits? Exercise and environment in the East of Glasgow
Julie Clark (University of Glasgow, UK)
Ade Kearns (University of Glasgow, UK)
As host city of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Glasgow made a ‘legacy’ commitment to inspire more of its citizens to become physically active and the East End of the city - home to some of Glasgow’s most disadvantaged communities - is under particular scrutiny. Recent years have seen significant physical change in the landscape of the East End, brought about through the activities of the local Urban Regeneration Company as well as investment directly related to delivery of the Games. Alongside road-building, the provision of new or improved sports facilities has been one of the main areas of capital investment.

The agency responsible for delivering sports services in the city is adamant that the new sporting infrastructure in the East End has been ‘built for the people of Glasgow’. However, achieving behavioural change in relation to physical activity is notoriously challenging and it is by no means certain that local communities will derive benefits from their proximity to the new facilities. Furthermore, although participation in sport is an important dimension of physical activity, the quality and nature of the urban environment can also be considered influential factors. Using interview data from the research project, GoWell: Studying Change in Glasgow’s East End, this paper takes a social determinants of health perspective, considering material living conditions and group membership in setting out a framework for exploring the relationships between exercise and urban environment during a period of intensive regeneration.
Running in the forest: studying tensions between landscape ideals and current practice of fitness running in Sweden
Mattias Qviström (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden)
Fitness running could be performed almost everywhere. Yet, this paper aims to illustrate the importance of landscape ideals for the everyday practice of running, with the city of Malmö as a case. To trace these ideals are of importance for contemporary planning, which largely lacks knowledge on the interplay between the runner and the landscape. In order to gain such knowledge studies of the present day practice and of embedded ideals due to decades of leisure planning are required. Consequently, the first part of this paper presents the history of leisure planning for fitness trails in Sweden in the 1950s – 1980s, the actors involved in the marketing of the new “sport”, and the importance of the (urban or suburban) forest as the ideal landscape for running. The paper reveals the complexity of the ideal and its marketing, which was dependent on bodily experiences and new technologies as much as on representations and national guidelines. Second, the paper discusses landscape ideals expressed by current runners (based on a study of internet resources), with particular focus on tensions between the remnants of previous planning (primarily; running trails and their geography) and new trends and ideals concerning fitness running in the city.