The article explores the lived experiences of older women with a high commitment to exercise. The methods of investigation were in-depth interviews with 17 women fitness instructors for the over-50s and the author's observations as a participant in a variety of exercise programs. The subjective experience of embodiment of older women, the ways in which the body is constructed discursively, and the objective processes of aging are explored. The women's narratives are placed in the wider context of consumption, lifestyle, and identity construction. The study analyzes whether older women's commitment to exercise is a reflection of a climate of constraint, in which individuals seek to shape and manage the body lo combat the effects of aging, or is one of empowerment and enablement. More important, the article explores the ways in which the women used fitness programs as a means of constructing intimacy, a sense of community, and satisfaction in interpersonal relations.
The author is with the School of Social Inquiry at Deakin University. Burwood. Victoria 3125, Australia.