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01.12.2018 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

European Review of Aging and Physical Activity 1/2018

Ageing and exercise: building body capital in old age

European Review of Aging and Physical Activity > Ausgabe 1/2018
Astrid Bergland, Marit Fougner, Anne Lund, Jonas Debesay



Research that provides better understanding of the motivational processes in older age to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle is sought after. We apply theoretical approaches to cultural capital, active and healthy aging health to shed light on the women’s experiences in maintaining physical capabilities through an active lifestyle, and thereby facilitating their own inclusion in society. Thus, the aim of this paper is to explore why older home dwelling women over the age of 70 years or more spend time in physical exercise and their experiences about the importance of participating in group exercise for their daily life.
This paper reports on a qualitative study based on interviews with 16 older women aged 70 years or more and regularly attending group exercise classes in the community at an established workout center. The data were analyzed the data using an inductive content analysis approach.


Three overreaching and interrelated themes emerged from the interviews: “Building body capital for independence”, “Building body capital to maintain vitality and being in control” and “Building resources for social interaction”. The findings suggest that group exercise is important for building body capital. The group exercise helped the women in building bodily ability to manage everyday life, maintain vitality, being in control, pursue social interaction and live independently. These body resources were important for these older women’s experience of the manageability and meaningfulness of daily life.


This study has provided insights into older women’s understanding and experiences of the challenges of everyday life within a theoretical framework of cultural capital and health. The women acquired cultural health capital, and more specifically body capital, by participating in the group exercise classes. The women’s investment in body capital through regular physical activity created resources which facilitated social participation. Therefore professionals need to be aware of this when performing group exercise.

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