From behaviour to birdsong: reorienting the object of physical activity intervention

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Physical (in)activity is a seemingly intractable public health problem that has spawned decades of behavioural research and intervention. Globally, efforts to improve physical activity levels have been largely unsuccessful, prompting researchers and practitioners to revisit the representativeness and scope of their methods. The present work extends this revisiting beyond method to consider the object of our inquiries itself. Empirically, physical (in)activity is classed as behaviour, so physical activity interventions are largely behavioural in nature and subject to the capacities and attributes such an object affords. Using Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of refrain in a postqualitative inquiry, I encountered intergenerational physical activity as a reoriented object that was less like behaviour and more like birdsong. Three refrains territorialised an abode for intergenerational physical activity, holding it in assemblage much the way a trilling call or an upturned leaf mark a bird’s territory. Through consistency and repetition among their diverse elements, the refrains became distinctively expressive as Architect, Zephyr, and Sower portraying lively and responsive landscapes of intergenerational physical activity. Because of the kind of answer refrain is, physical activity intervention requires a different response, one that joins with the multiple, rhythmic connections of the refrains and fabricates lines of flight. Lines of flight are speculative and generate unexpected connections, but they are also politically and ethically risky when intentionally pursued. Onto-epistemologically reorienting the object of physical activity intervention requires speculative experimentation. Researchers and practitioners are invited to response-ably explore what interventions actually do and the plurality of ways to create difference.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalQualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health
Early online date14 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Jan 2024


  • physical activity
  • intervention
  • refrain
  • postqualitative
  • new empiricisms


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