Impact of research on ageing healthily, embodiment, physical activity , exercise and diversity (active ageing)

Submitting Institution

Buckinghamshire New University

Unit of Assessment

Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Medical and Health Sciences: Public Health and Health Services

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Summary of the impact

Since 2009, research has been undertaken into strategies, practice and provision for active-ageing, specifically examining the mental and physical health and well-being benefits of group activities on culturally diverse older people. The main impact of this research has been the establishment of twelve Movers and Shakers groups. This has benefited approximately 500 older people. There are plans to establish four more groups in Buckinghamshire, including a group for people with learning disabilities. Outside of the County, interest in adoption of the model has been expressed by Hillingdon Borough Council and by a housing group operating in Hertfordshire.

Underpinning research

This research on active ageing has promoted culturally diverse activity provision through the development of appropriate physical activities, and phenomenological research into ageing embodiment during physical activity. This research builds upon previous investigations concerned with diversity, physical culture and physical activities. The present project specifically focuses upon gaining insights into the health and wellbeing experiences of older people from diverse communities.

The key research insights are the importance of identification of the health and well-being agenda for self-organised group activity, particularly for culturally diverse groups of older citizens: it highlights the recognition of the mental and physical benefits of regular meetings for cultural activities and the significance of culturally appropriate forms of physical activities. The underpinning research was published in various outputs together with the `Movers & Shakers' project funded through NHS Bucks in 2009, and the subsequent development of further culturally appropriate physical activity programmes.

Other key insights include the significance of self-directed alternative physical activities (such as yoga) for self-resilience, embodied learning, health and well-being. Furthermore, phenomenological research has revealed a greater understanding of embodied active ageing, which challenges existing and dominant discourse on ageing. The underpinning research constituted a number of outputs based on interviews, participant observation and (auto)-ethnographic research carried out between March 2009 and June 2012. The research programme was led by Humberstone, and supported by Visiting Professor, Carol Cutler-Riddick, professor gerontology and leisure, Gallaudet University from 2009 - 2011

Consideration of the ageing body and the `body techniques' practised by older women within their yoga classes adds to theoretical and conceptual developments in recent research on embodiment, sport and physical culture through the focus on ageing bodies. Within the field of ageing, this research highlights the importance of exploring alternative definitions of the human condition, how these are shaped and assembled through particular embodied practices which are realised personally and socially through engagement with alternative physical activities. Unlike much sporting practice, the body techniques managed by the participants did not emphasise sporting prowess but provided for an integration of body and mind. Biological ageing is accepted yet participants maintained control over the process, challenging prevailing narratives of ageing, declining control and increasing weakness that are taken for granted in much of Western society. The significance of embodiment in understanding the ageing body and particular bodily practices is highlighted, and the importance of interpretative qualitative research to uncovering this knowledge.

The underpinning academic research demonstrated that:

  • interventions aimed at older people in diverse communities and groups can facilitate healthy active ageing through increased self-responsibility for individual wellbeing
  • the perspectives and experiences of the older person is elucidated through research on healthy active ageing
  • popular and prevailing discourse related to `ageing' (e.g., declining control) can be positively challenged through developing an understanding of older peoples' experiences of physical activity
  • older people experience healthy active ageing through positive sensations & expressions of emotions during embodied practices
  • healthy active ageing is facilitated by varied embodiment practices in accessible, meaningful ways

References to the research

1. Humberstone, B (2011) Embodiment and social and environmental action in nature-based sport: Spiritual Spaces, Special Issue- Leisure and the politics of the environment Leisure Studies, 30 (4) 495-512.


2. Cutler- Riddick C. and Humberstone,B. (2010) Practising Yoga Later in Life: A Mixed-Methods Study of English Women, in) `When I am Old I will' Third Age and Leisure Research: Principles and Practice. (LSA publication 108). Eastbourne: Leisure Studies Association, ed B. Humberstone pp117-130.

The quality of these outputs is evidenced below:

(1) The journal article by Humberstone (2011) was subject to peer-review for the journal Leisure Studies (Impact Factor: 0.887).

(2) The chapter by Cutler-Riddick and Humberstone has been downloaded 144 times on

Details of the impact

Movers & Shakers (M&S) is a programme that engages older adults from isolated and socially disadvantaged communities, and encourages them to lead healthier lifestyles. This innovative, inclusive, self-care model supports healthy ageing and wellbeing for older adults, enabling them to live longer, independent lives.

Movers & Shakers groups were first established in Wycombe District in 2009, and subsequently groups have been formed in Aylesbury Vale and Chiltern Districts. The founding committee had the following members:

  Rev. Dr. Gwen
 Chairperson  Minister, Trinity URC
 (hosts of M&S Caribbean-style)
 Dr. Michael Bowker  Secretary  Retired GP (voluntary community worker)
 Dr. Graham Storer  Treasurer  Retired Engineer (voluntary community worker)
 Olga McBarnett  Committee
 Bucks PCT Dev. Worker, Mental Health
 Armintha Walcott  Committee
 Chairperson, Caribbean-style M&S
 Bucks New University; Evaluation and specialist
 physical activity and ageing
 Piers Worth  Committee
 Bucks New University; Specialist in Ageing

Supported by Buckinghamshire County Council, NHS Aylesbury Vale Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS Chiltern Clinical Commissioning Group, M&S currently has 12 established groups meeting weekly. Volunteers establish and run the weekly sessions, supported by a community development team from NHS Buckinghamshire. (Sources 1, 2, 3 and 5)

In September 2011, Movers & Shakers partnered with Wycombe District Council and expanded the project into sheltered accommodation units in Wycombe, supporting local people aged over 55 within the health and wellbeing initiative (Sources 3 and 4). The project also extended its reach to a variety of communities, starting with its Caribbean Style group, and now including Asian Men's Style, Islah Asian Women's Style and Chinese Style. (Sources 1 and 5) A VIP Style group has also been established, for adults with learning disabilities.

From an initial base of 50 people, there are currently approximately 500 older people from diverse cultural backgrounds involved, with 200 people participating in group sessions each week. Participants undergo a health check when they join a group. Sessions include opportunities for gentle exercise, including seated exercise, for mental exercise (eg Suduko) and a time for eating a healthy meal together. Tips on healthy eating are incorporated into the sessions (Source 6).

Evaluation of benefits has identified the following: i) older people, previously unaware of having high blood pressure, contacting their general practitioner to address this issue, and ii) modest weight loss. Participants also reported social and emotional benefits from participation (Source 6).

In recognition of its good practice and innovation, Movers & Shakers won first prize in the Mental Health and Wellbeing category at the 2010 NHS South Central Health and Social Care Awards, and also won the runner up position at the 2010 Bucks Sports Award in its Community Challenge category. Plans are underway to expand the project to include three further groups in Buckinghamshire at Princes Risborough, Lane End and Gerrards Cross. Following the successful pilot of the VIP Style in High Wycombe, it is planned to launch a similar group in Aylesbury for adults with learning disabilities.

Discussions are being held with Bucks Mind and Wycombe Mind to become stakeholders and support the further expansion of M&S with funding for two co-ordinators, a pool of dedicated instructors to train new instructors to work with older adults, equipment for health checks and resources for longitudinal research into the programme. Outside of the county, interest in adoption of the model has been expressed by Hillingdon Borough Council and by a housing group operating in Hertfordshire. To facilitate the formation of new groups, a short guide has been produced which outline the steps required to set up a Movers and Shakers group (Source 7).

The project leader, Olga McBarnet, Joint MH Community Lead for Buckinghamshire County Council, has ambitions to extend the M&S initiative nationwide (Source 6). She recently wrote to the University, saying, "In a national context, I see myself as the overall project manager or CEO responsible for disseminating the initiative using the methodology of localism for community based social enterprises, utilising local connectors to ensure ethos of M&S layout is adhered to. There is potential for increasing local employment (transporting participants in rural settings, gardening for home grown produce for use in venues, recruiting a dedicated pool of exercise and craft instructors, volunteering etc.) as well as social inclusion and building a more cohesive community."

The University supports the expansion of this programme in line with the research group's future strategic plans for collaboration with external organisations, for example by organising a conference in June 2014 focusing on older people, exercise and recreation and showcasing Movers & Shakers. Furthermore, the research impact will be enhanced through capitalising on this programme and developing new interdisciplinary synergies (e.g., psycho-physiological aspects of ageing).

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. McBarnett et al (2010) M&S in Bucks in Humberstone, B. (2010) Third Age and Leisure research. LSA publication.
  4. Video —
  5. Rationale for setting up Movers & Shakers Health and Wellbeing Initiatives in Buckinghamshire — October 2013
  6. McBarnett (2010) Movers & Shakers in Buckinghamshire: an action research pilot project involving Asian and Caribbean communities, Project report, Ethnicity and Inequalities in Health and Social Care, 3, 3, 33-37.
  7. Movers & Shakers Set up Guide.