A timely contribution that shows the value of physical activity for healthy ageing


Mark Brooke
Centre for English Language Communication, National University of Singapore

Barbara Humberstone & Maria Konstantaki (red)
Ageing, Physical Activity, Recreation and Wellbeing
215 pages, hardcover.
Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2016
ISBN 978-1-4438-9104-2

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institute on Aging, in 2010, an estimated 524 million people were aged 65 or older, about 8 percent of the world’s population. By 2050, this number is expected to more than triple representing 22 percent of the world’s population. In some places in England, the context for this book, this figure is even higher. The authors note in their introduction, that by 2026, 40% of Cheshire’s population will be above 65 years old and that those aged 85 and over will increase by 41%. These figures lead us to acknowledge that this book on inspiring healthy active ageing is a timely contribution. Another reason why this is timely is that, over the last 30 years, there has been a global increase in non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. The aged can be susceptible to these diseases because they are more prone to adopting sedentary lifestyles.

The book has significance for policy makers, the academic community, community activists and the general public. It explores how well-being can be maintained, even restored, for healthy ageing to occur. The primary aim of the book is to raise awareness about types of physical exercise and recreation that seek to promote healthy ageing. It also seeks to dispel myths and to trouble the hegemonic ideology related to the ‘vulnerability’ of the aged and the dominant discourse that they are one of society’s problems. With an active lifestyle, people of 65 and over can live healthily and productively. Drawing on both quantitative and qualitative methodologies, recent successful intervention strategies for ‘active aging’ are presented. These take place in English communities, mainly around Buckinghamshire, but in diverse cultural communities, and so can relate to a much wider audience.

The volume comprises 10 chapters. Chapter one stands alone as it is not a researcher’s report on an intervention. Rather, it is an extensive meta-analysis of the research that has been conducted on reasons for unhealthy ageing in addition to what is being done to promote healthy aging through physical activity and social connectivity. In particular, this chapter explores how inactivity, as a bigger killer than obesity, needs to be the target for change across the globe. The author presents resource sites available with strategies for planning and developing evidence-based programmes in senior centres. She also provides information about principles to abide by when designing or becoming involved in physical activity at the individual level. The other 9 chapters, apart from chapters 8 and 9 with quantitative reasoning, comprise mainly ethnographic reports from community activists and researchers on initiatives that they have set up.  These action research projects are generally very well-reported and written. They focus on interpretative, ethnographic and auto-ethnographic methodologies with participant observation, focus groups and interviews. The content provides rich food for thought for action. The contexts for these reports are diverse in relation to the activities that are presented (for example, yoga, tango, windsurfing) and in terms of the communities represented (for example, Caribbean, Chinese and Asian Dosti).

Whatever your present state of health, this book can inform and motivate you to leave your sedentary ways behind.

Certain chapters stood out in my mind as particularly effective. The first is entitled Dancing the Tango, Hearing Loss and Ageing, which reports on a small scale qualitative project called The D/deaf CAN Dance. The project followed Queer Tango principles in which there are no gender role assumptions about who leads and who follows. Participants are asked to keep reflective journals and are interviewed after the tango workshops. Findings show that the deaf can learn the tango and that this can be empowering for them. Chapters 8 and 9 are physiological studies with pre and post-intervention results of physical activities. These include persuasive quantitative results demonstrating clearly that physical activity can reduce hypertension and reduce blood pressure amongst the aged population. Chapters 4 and 10 also present how physical activity can promote healthy ageing but they also take a slightly different focus as they explore how their methodological approaches seek to move away from positivistic ideology and to present the subjectivity of sensory experiences. These chapters also discuss other important issues involved in undertaking qualitative research such as the positionality of the researcher.

As already noted, this edited volume can benefit a diverse group of readers including policy makers, the academic community, community activists and the general public. In my opinion, the best way to benefit from its content is to read a chapter that relates meaningfully to your specific context. If you are a novice researcher in this field, you can find model projects to gain insights about how to plan, conduct and report your work. You also have access to excellent literature reviews and reference lists. If you are a community project organiser or wish to become one, there are several projects described and carefully evaluated to help you design and set up your own. If you are an individual looking to change your lifestyle, you can find useful, interesting information in this volume. Whatever your present state of health, this book can inform and motivate you to leave your sedentary ways behind. It can also help you to adopt healthier eating habits.

To conclude, Humberstone and Konstantaki’s edited volume provides great stimulus for further reading, reflection and discussion. Although its coverage is Anglo-centric, it describes diverse communities and sports, and it presents transferable projects suitable for many other regions. I am sure that the book will draw collaborations from like-minded individuals and groups and provide a platform for these collaborations to be reported as material contributed for a reprint in the near future.

Copyright © Mark Brooke 2017


Table of Content

Barbara Humberstone and Maria Konstantaki
  1. The Importance of Physical Activity and Recreation to Ageing Well: Unveiling Research Findings and Take Away Ideas
    Carol Cutler-Riddick
  2. Ageing Well: The Local Perspective
    Olga McBarnett
  3. Supporting Resilience through Active Ageing
    Anne Chappell and Elaine Welsh
  4. A Qualitative Study in Ageing and Exercise
    Sue Stuart
  5. Evaluating the Social Impacts of Dance: The Naphill Intergenerational Tea Dance
    Jonathan Lewis
  6. Walking for Wellbeing and Health: A Sustainable Option for an Ageing Population
    Alan Hockley and Fiona McCormack
  7. Dancing the Tango, Hearing Loss and Ageing
    Melanie Parris and Ray Batchelor
  8. Effects of a Six-Week Physical Activity Intervention on Health Measures of Older People
    Maria Konstantaki and Sam Higgins
  9. Effects of Tai Chi and Resistance Training on Physiological Measures and Perceptions of Hypertension in Stage 1 Hypertensive Individuals
    Jay Patel and Maria Konstantaki
  10. Researching the Active Ageing Body: What Inspires Continued Participation by Men and Women Over 60 in Alternative Physical Activities?
    Barbara Humberstone


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