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Older women being active in fitness gyms: benefits or constraints? Results from a qualitative interview study (southern Germany and East Coast of USA)

  • In the course of demographic change, the notion of age(ing) seen as something unavoidable has changed into something more adaptable. Through a healthy lifestyle, which aims at the self-responsible management of physical risks through fitness and discipline, individuals can expand their independence. However, the chances of doing so depend largely on one’s social position. In addition, the shift in health ideology towards the individual and the trend towards active ageing may lead to social pressure for some individuals. This qualitative interview study attempts to shed more light on this field of tension: What are the benefits and constraints of working on the body in the gym? Furthermore, what similarities and differences can be identified in identity constructions in the two samples with regard to the different underlying healthcare systems? The evaluation of the interviews was based on qualitative content analysis and was carried out with technical support (MAXQDA). It appears that for the respondents creating a fit body results primarily in self-empowerment gains. At the same time, submissions to Western body and fitness norms are also evident. Inequalities in health opportunities exist in both countries: While the respondents in the German sample (26 interviews) rely on public health services, the privileged American women (14 interviews) are covered by private insurance. They indicate that claiming government benefits appears as a stigmatisation of one’s own way of life. Consequently, a lack of resources in the form of cultural and economic capital prevents successful age(ing).

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Author:Gabriele SobiechORCiD, Sebastian Leipert
Parent Title (English):German Journal of Exercise and Sport Research
Publisher:Springer Berlin Heidelberg
Document Type:Article
Date of first Publication:2021/12/01
Release Date:2023/05/25
Tag:Active age(ing); Fitness; Gaining distinction; Health; Social inequalities
GND Keyword:-
First Page:457
Last Page:467
Open Access:Frei zugänglich
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - CC BY - Namensnennung 4.0 International