Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

‘Everyone's so kind and jolly it boosts my spirits, if you know what I mean’: A humanising perspective on exercise programme participation

Killingback, Clare; Tsofliou, Fotini; Clark, Carol


Fotini Tsofliou

Carol Clark


Maintaining a physically active lifestyle across the life course can add to an individual's health and well‐being. Many people are insufficiently active to achieve these gains with a trend towards further decreases in activity as people age. Community‐based group exercise programmes have been shown to be one means of increasing sustained activity levels for older people.

To understand how and why older people sustain participation to community‐based group exercise programmes from a humanising perspective.

A multiple‐case study approach was employed to study three exercise programmes in the South‐West of England. Data were collected through participant observation, focus groups and documentation. Data were analysed with deductive thematic analysis and mapped against the humanisation framework.

Findings suggest that the humanising nature of these particular exercise programmes supported sustained participation. In these programmes, agency was evidenced in the way participants self‐selected their level of exertion with exercises. There was freedom to be their unique selves and exercise within the limits of their insider challenges of an ageing body. Through this non‐judgemental exercise environment, there was an embodied understanding of who they were as people. The exercise programme became part of their personal journey. This journey helped inform their future by enabling them to keep active and maintain independence, allowing them to continue engaging in the world. There was a sense of togetherness and belonging which led to feelings of homeliness as they found a sense of place within the group. The friendships they formed helped them make sense and add meaning to their experiences and personal health challenges.

When planning exercise environments to support the long‐term adoption of a sustained behaviour change, in the form of physical activity for older people, it is helpful to consider dimensions that make an individual feel human.


Killingback, C., Tsofliou, F., & Clark, C. (in press). ‘Everyone's so kind and jolly it boosts my spirits, if you know what I mean’: A humanising perspective on exercise programme participation. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 31, 2021
Online Publication Date Mar 14, 2021
Deposit Date Mar 15, 2021
Publicly Available Date Mar 15, 2022
Journal Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences
Print ISSN 1471-6712
Electronic ISSN 1471-6712
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Older people; Community‐based group exercise; Humanisation; Qualitativ; United Kingdom; Humanising
Public URL


Article (193 Kb)

Copyright Statement
©2021 The authors. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder

You might also like

Downloadable Citations