The Gap Between Knowing and Doing: How Canadians Understand Physical Activity as a Health Risk Management Strategy

in Sociology of Sport Journal
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  • 1 University of Ottawa
  • | 2 London, Ontario, Canada.
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In Canada, as in other neo-liberal states, a physically active lifestyle is discursively constructed as a moral activity, whereas a sedentary lifestyle is criticized as a failure to take charge of one’s health (Bercovitz, 2000; Lupton, 1997). This study aims to understand how Canadian men and women articulate the discursive connections between physical activity and health risks and how those connections are reflected in their reported behaviors. Analysis shows that some of the 37 men and 36 women interviewed not only “talk the talk” regarding physical activity, they also claim to lead an active lifestyle. However, “active” participants were disciplined into frequent physical activity not simply by the discursive effects of the fitness mantra promising better health, but because they enjoyed it. Conversely, the not-active-enough participants were unwilling to fully comply with the requirements of the fitness discourses because they found no pleasure in “exercise.” Despite adopting physical activity as a key strategy to manage their health risks, interviews revealed that the latter group were not docile bodies (Foucault, 1995).

Dallaire is with the School of Human Kinetics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Gibbs is from London, Ontario, Canada. Lemyre is with the School of Psychology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Krewski is with the R. Samuel McLaughlin Centre for Population Health Risk Assessment University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

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