Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Don Morrow


Gender is a rarely studied social determinant of health. Qualitative methodologies, while underutilized in health promotion, may facilitate understanding of the gender and health relationship. The purpose of this work is to determine if narrative inquiry is a meaningful approach to study the relationship between femininity and physical activity and to examine this relationship within women’s life histories. Five women between 30 and 40 participated in two semi-structured interviews. Data were analyzed holistically, structurally, and categorically.

This dissertation is comprised of five integrated articles, in which I locate myself epistemologically as researcher through a discussion on the feminist underpinnings of performative social science, I autoethnographically examine my own resistance to dominant exercise discourses for women while highlighting the complex nature of theorizing lived experience, I ‘play’ with numerous approaches to emplotment while introducing the reader to each participant individually and the plot that holds her physical activity life history together, I present the shared structure of the women’s life histories and emergent themes, and I use metaphor to encompass the lived realities of my own and my participants’ lives.

Findings demonstrate shifting meanings of physical activity throughout the women’s lives from play to sport competition, a means to weight loss, re-embodiment through physical activity, and imagined future roles of motherhood. Emergent themes include A hierarchy of activities, Triangle of exercise, diet, and thinness, and The importance of social influencers. This research has the potential to inform future health promotion initiatives that are grounded in women’s lived experiences.