The significance of critical incidents in explaining gym use amongst adult populations

Bob Stewart, Aaron C.T. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Using a qualitative research design, this paper addresses the practice of gym work in contemporary society by examining the factors that lead adult gym users to make the transition from non-gym activity to regular gym use. While there are many studies that address the motives for undertaking gym work, there are very few studies that take a temporal perspective by inviting gym users to explain why they resolved to do gym work when they did. Under the conceptual umbrella of life-course theory, this project interrogated 10 individual case studies with the aim of determining the catalyst for their involvement in gym work. The results showed that eight respondents cited critical incidents that drove them to undertake gym programmes. Two of the incidents - and consequent epiphanies and turning points - centred on serious illness and injuries, two arose out of a family trauma, three revolved around emotional distress and one case focused on bodily deterioration. Six of the eight respondents who cited critical incidents also noted that prior to the incident occurring they had little interest in using gyms as places for improving fitness and well-being. The results not only reveal that gyms are important spaces for transitioning people from sedentary to active lifestyles, but also confirm the utility of life-course frameworks in exposing the critical incidents, epiphanies and turning points that make it happen.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-61
Number of pages17
JournalQualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'The significance of critical incidents in explaining gym use amongst adult populations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this