THE EXERCISE EXPERIENCE: COMMUNITY EFFECTS
 
Edwards, S., Zululand University, South Africa
 
This paper was motivated by the lack of qualitative, phenomenological investigations in exercise and sport psychology. The research was theoretically grounded on the works of phenomenologists such as Husserl, Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty and particularly informed by the 2001 World Congress of Sport Psychology held in Greece as well as research by the author on health promotion, exercise and community psychology. A culturally diverse sample of Australian and South African postgraduate students and staff involved with social science or human movement science honours, masters or doctoral degrees completed an open-ended questionnaire before taking part in focus group discussions on the exercise experience and its community effects. In all there were 43 participants in 5 focus groups. Results are presented in terms of individual and group experiences of exercise and its community effects. Exercise was typically experienced in terms of positive feelings. Positive and diverse community effects were mentioned. Focus group discussions generated further in-depth, qualitative experiences and meanings of exercise and its community effects in diverse contexts. Participants generally evaluated their research participation as an intrinsically, beneficial experience,leading to a strengthening of intention to exercise and promote community health. The results are discussed from various perspectives. In summary, the findings may be described as both 'relatively universal' and contextually diverse. Implications are that researchers and interventionists in the field should routinely explore the experience/meaning of their participants' physical activity, exercise and sport in its context before investigations and interventions.