Call for Papers | “Sport, Physical Activity and Public Health” | Special issue of International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics

Guest editors: Dr Louise Mansfield (Brunel University London) and Dr Joe Piggin (Loughborough University)

Mansfield & Piggin, guest editors.
Mansfield & Piggin, guest editors.

The aim of this special issue is to encourage critical discussions about the relationships between sport, physical activity and public health. The late twentieth century resurgence in the importance of physical activity in public health policy is evidenced by the development of increasingly explicit recommendations on physical activity levels in global health strategies and national physical activity policies, continued and updated position statements from specialist medicine and exercise working groups, and intensifying local promotion, delivery and governance of individual and community based sport and physical activity programmes. The sport sector is currently a priority area for increasing population rates of physical activity. However, very little is known about the contribution of sport to physical activity and health. Whilst there has been extensive and recent investment in policy and practice aspects of physical activity, both in the UK and worldwide, population-level responses have had limited success in arresting the upward trend in inactivity and reducing inequalities in activity levels. The requirements for successful individual, community and national promotion of sport and physical activity programmes are not well understood and there is scope to bring critical work to the fore on the consequences (both intended and unintended) of such programmes for diverse groups of people. The relationships between sport, physical activity and health are not neutral but reflect complex struggles over particular political and social ideologies in different spaces / places. It is, thus, timely and significant to raise questions about the politics of the sport/activity/health dynamic.

There is a growing awareness and intensifying morality surrounding the potential health threats posed by a lack of physical activity as well as the benefits of sustained engagement in physical activity. Most of this work is driven by medical and behavioural science. Some critical work has identified the complex relationships between sport, physical activity and health (Waddington, 2000). Other research has addressed the policy dimensions of physical activity, commercialization and marketing (Piggin, 2014; Piggin and Bairner, 2014). Some work has explored the complex political arena of sports medicine and health (Malcolm and Scott, 2011) and another focus has been on critical understandings of the structures, processes, experiences and health consequences of fitness-based physical activity (Markula, 1995; Mansfield, 2011; Maguire, 2008). Questions about ageing, disability, socioeconomic status, ethnicity and gender have also come to the fore in discussions about the policies and politics of sport and physical activity for health (see for example, Phoenix and Grant, 2009; Howe, 2004; Kay and Spaaj, 2012; Wilkinson and Marmot, 2003; Wray, 2007). Despite such work, stemming from a range of disciplinary contexts including social gerontology, the sociology of sport, social psychology, gender studies, international development, policy studies and policy science there is space for more overt discussions of the increasing relevance and complexities of the politics of sport, physical activity and public health.

In this special issue of the International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics we will include articles from a variety of disciplinary bases and we propose to include work that engages in critical examinations of sport and physical activity connected to public health policy (including the wellbeing agenda) and to a diversity of public health issues. Papers based on empirical research should be presented within an appropriate conceptual and theoretical framework. If there are sufficient papers of a high standard the guest editors will discuss with T&F the possibility of publishing the collection as both a special issue and, subsequently, as an edited book. The intention is to select 6-8 papers that are theoretically and methodologically diverse and include a brief introduction by the two guest editors, however, shorter research notes or audio-visual reviews are also invited.

The topics covered in this special issue could include the following although the list is not exhaustive:

    • state and government policy on sport and physical activity for public health
    • the politics of the sport/physical activity/health dynamic e.g. in relation to cancer survivorship, harmful drinking, drug use and misuse, smoking or obesity)
    • workplace politics and physical activity for health
    • education, sport, physical activity and health
    • sport, physical activity and the politics of  wellbeing
    • the commercial sector, corporate social responsibility and physical activity for health
    • sport mega events and health
    • sport, physical activity, gender and health
    • youth sport, health and wellbeing
    • policy and politics of ageing and physical activity
    • cultural diversity, public health and physical activity
    • community programmes, sport and public health
    • elite sport policies and the politics of health
    • sport, physical activity and policy in international development contexts
    • critical issues in evidence-based policy for sport, physical activity and health

We invite submissions drawing on range of policy and politics related theoretical and methodological perspectives to advance knowledge and understanding in the field.


  • Howe, P. D. (2004). Sport, professionalism, and pain: ethnographies of injury and risk. Psychology Press.
  • Kay, T., & Spaaij, R. (2012). The mediating effects of family on sport in international development contexts. International review for the sociology of sport, 47(1), 77-94.
  • Malcolm, D., & Scott, A. (2011). Professional relations in elite sport healthcare: workplace responses to organizational change, Social Science & Medicine, 72, 513-520.
  • Mansfield, L. (2011). ‘Sexercise’: working out heterosexuality in Jane Fonda’s fitness books. Leisure Studies, 30(2), 237-255.
  • Markula, P. (2001). Firm but shapely, fit but sexy, strong but thin. The American Body in Context: An Anthology, (3), 273.
  • Maguire, J. S. (2007). Fit for consumption: Sociology and the business of fitness. Routledge.
  • Piggin, J. (2014) Designed to move? Physical activity lobbying and the politics of productivity. Health Education Journal.
  • Piggin, J. & Bairner, A. (2014). The global physical inactivity pandemic: An analysis of knowledge production. Sport Education and Society.
  • Phoenix, C., & Grant, B. C. (2009). Expanding the agenda for research on the physically active aging body.
  • Wilkinson, R. G., & Marmot, M. G. (Eds.). (2003). Social determinants of health: the solid facts. World Health Organization.
  • Wray, S. (2007). Health, exercise, and well-being: the experiences of midlife women from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Social Theory & Health, 5(2), 126-144.

Submission Instructions

Key Deadlines
Full papers (8000 – 10000 words) and research notes / short communications (2000 words max) accepted.

Abstract (250 words) submission 30th June 2015 to either guest editor with completed articles due 30th October 2015. Publication anticipated late 2016.

Interested parties can contact the editors ( and by email to discuss potential submissions.

Please consult the inside covers of the International Journal of Sport, Policy and Politics or the website for guidance on format and submission via Manuscript Central. Include a note that papers are for consideration in the special issue ‘Sport, Physical Activity and Public Health’.

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