The deadly couch: physical (in)activity in middle-aged women in Australia

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Global awareness about an increase of chronic diseases and premature mortality due to 'unhealthy eating' and 'sedentary lifestyles' is embedded in various discourses shaped by relationships and power. In this article, I investigate the role of physical activity in the lives of middle-aged women in Australia and how their experiences with exercise influence the way they position themselves within the context of inter-discursivity regarding fitness and 'healthy ageing'. Results reveal how 'knowledge' about 'healthy lifestyles' is created and accessed, and how women make sense of the healthism discourse, the obesity crisis, and discourses around menopause and ageing. The participants for this study are nine women in their forties to sixties who volunteered to participate in semi-structured interviews after completing an online survey about physical activity that was part of a larger project. Their accounts of health and fitness, healthy eating, weight management, mental wellbeing and ageing are categorised and interpreted in a post-structuralist framework through the lens of feminist relational discourse analysis. Results show that all women are influenced by healthism discourses as well as being affected by assumptions and recommendations for ageing, menopausal women. They shape female identity by adopting, but also by resisting, discourses around their bodies and minds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1241-1258
Number of pages18
JournalAgeing and Society
Issue number6
Early online date2 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • discourse
  • exercise
  • feminist relational discourse analysis
  • healthism
  • physical activity
  • women


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