Enhancing well-being -middle aged women doing adventure activities

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


This presentation presents the findings of a study that examined the experiences of a group of middle aged women engaging in adventure activities, exploring what the women get from belonging to the group and how they prioritise it in their lives.

As a result of low participation rates women are identified as priority for many government strategies designed to increase physical activity. When data is examined on women’s participation in physical activity it is much lower than that of men, with this pattern being even more evident when participation in adventure activities is examined Many reasons are put forward for this including the traditional perceived masculine nature of adventure activities; time demands such as care for others and lacking skills. This current study explored the experiences of a group of middle aged women who had taken up adventure activities in their middle years.

All (N20) women belonging to an adventure group based in the east of Scotland were invited to take part in interviews, of which 14 (36yrs – 64yrs) participated. The focus of the study was aimed at understanding the culture of the group and the experiences of belonging to the group, but also their beliefs, challenges and attitudes to the activities they undertake. Interview questions focussed around the women’s own individual experience, but also the role of the group and activities within their broader lives. These included reasons for participation; barriers; their own identity in relation to activities; attitude to risk and role within the group. Transcriptions of the interviews (40-70minutes) were thematically analysed to establish themes.

All of the women acknowledged that joining the group and taking up the activities had a transformational impact on their lives. They found the activities both enjoyable and challenging and as a result their confidence, skills and ability had improved. Belonging to the group and making time for activities had become a priority in their lives and as such they altered their attitudes to other aspects such as housework and care demands to enable them to participate. There was an acknowledgement of the risks associated with outdoor activity with the women having individual responses to risk. These responses meant that some of the women would opt out of certain activities such as kayaking/canoeing or find a level of the activity that they were comfortable with, such as jumping from a lower point on the cliff when coasteering. However, opting out was never challenged and the women felt supported in their decisions by others in the group. As a consequence of belonging to the group they valued the social support both, in doing the activities but also in their wider lives. Their enjoyment of the activities increased their desire to continue to be active as they age, which encouraged them to live healthier lives by being aware of their nutrition and also doing regular exercise. Alongside maintaining physical health was the belief that being out on the mountains or completing an activity helped reduce stress, lift mood, improve self-belief and manage stresses in other aspects of their lives, such as work. The women also believed that they were role models for other women, especially their daughters.

Participating in outdoor adventure activities has the capacity to promote activity in middle aged women. Belonging to a group engaged in adventure activities provides women with social support, improved physical and mental health as well as enjoyment and improved confidence and skills. Group membership and doing adventure activities can enhance and improve the overall well-being of middle aged women.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2016
Event5th International Adventure Conference: Wild Journeys - Tralee, Ireland
Duration: 19 Oct 201621 Oct 2016
Conference number: 5


Conference5th International Adventure Conference


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