Call for Papers | “Exercise and environment: new geographies of the exercise experience” | Chicago, April 21-25 2015

Association of American Geographers Annual Conference, Chicago, April 21-25 2015

Exercise and environment:
New geographies of the exercise experience

Session organizers: Alan Latham and Russell Hitchings, UCL Geography

jumping-exercisePhysical fitness practices are part of the background of contemporary life. Jogging, cycling, walking, swimming, weight training, roller blading, dancing, playing and training for all kinds of sports animate people’s everyday worlds in all sorts of significant and often surprising ways. These practices can be approached as palliatives to the sedentarism of much of modern life, as ways of caring for body and self, as forms of self or group expression, as the foci of different socialities, and as sites of bodily and environmental innovation. Yet despite this diversity, the lived experience of undertaking these various practices has yet to receive the social scientific attention it deserves. In particular, it has not yet been subject to the tools and concepts associated with a geographical approach. This is surprising when an appreciation of how and why people come to exercise in some ways and places instead of others stands to generate new insights for policy agendas that span those associated with public health promotion and the fight against obesity to the encouragement of community cohesion and wider social wellbeing.

This call for papers begins with the assumption that it is worth considering the material composition of exercise ecologies in terms of how different exercise environments are physically experienced and how identified exercise practices become attached to them. In particular, we are interested in research centred on the changing ways in which exercise is done and how the contextual attunement that may be said to characterise a geographical approach to this topic may enliven our understanding of these changes. We do so because such approaches promise to provide a fresh perspective on the above agendas and to breathe new life into wider debates about how and where exercise is done today, and how and where it may be done tomorrow.

These sessions are an extension of a series of conference sessions already organised at the Royal Geographical Society in London. Our explicit aim is to build on the discussions that took place there by further consolidating and evaluating this line of enquiry. We do this with the intention of preparing a special edition that showcases and details how this work might be done and reflects on its wider value. Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • The emergence of new fitness practices
  • The disappearance of others
  • How routines of physical fitness are sustained and unsettled
  • The experienced implications of different exercise environments
  • Different technologies of fitness and what they do to us
  • The sociality (or not) of contemporary physical fitness practices
  • Care of the self during physical fitness
  • Combining exercise with other activities in everyday life
  • Coping with weather, dirt and the elements during exercise
  • How surfaces, sweat and sports gear shape the exercise experience
  • Competition and co-operation during everyday sport
  • The sensorial expression of active corporeality
  • The influence of different landscapes on exercise and fitness routines
  • How and why urban exercise practices may differ from elsewhere
  • Consciousness and habit in the establishment and unsettling of exercise
  • Different methods to examine and evaluate the exercise experience

Please send a proposed abstract of 200-300 words to either of the following by 10th October 2014.

Dr Alan Latham ( or Dr Russell Hitchings (

More detail about the conference:

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