Exercise and Sports Science

Professor Rylee Dionigi

PhD BSocSc (Recreation & Human Movement, Honours Class I)

Professor in Socio-Cultural Dimension
Port Macquarie
Building 801 Room 3016


Professor Rylee Dionigi has published widely in the fields of sport sociology, ageing and physical activity, health, exercise psychology, and leisure studies. She teaches in the sociology of active living and ageing, sport and exercise behavior and supervises students in the sociology of health and education. Dr Dionigi has expertise in qualitative methodologies and extensive knowledge on the personal and cultural meanings of sport and exercise participation in later life. In her book (research monograph), Competing for life: Older people, sport and ageing (2008), she argues that the phenomenon of older people competing in sport is a reflection of an ageist society which continues to value youthfulness over old age and reject multiple ways of ageing. Dr Dionigi (with Michael Gard) has edited a scholarly book called Sport and Physical Activity Across the Lifespan, with Palgrave Macmillan, UK which problematizes Sport for All policy and health promotion trajectories across the lifespan. This edited collection is distinctive because it provides a critical social science perspective on Sport for All or Sport for Life that is aged focused. It offers an array of theoretical and methodologically diverse perspectives on this topic, and highlights the intersections between different life stages and social, economic and cultural factors in the developed world. Overall, her work offers a critique of health promotion trajectories across the lifespan and calls for an acceptance of diversity and difference in older age.

Professor Rylee Dionigi's research is in the social sciences of Exercise and Sports Science. It is recognised internationally and nationally through her ongoing external research collaborations in Canada, United Kingdom and Australia. The significance of Dr Dionigi's research on sport, health, leisure and ageing lies in its critique of the popular assumption that everyone should remain physically active across his or her life. In broad terms, Dr Dionigi's qualitative research is concerned with socio-cultural and socio-psychological dimensions of sport, physical activity, leisure and ageing in Western societies. Specifically, she is interested in:

  • how older people make sense of themselves and their experiences in the context of sport, leisure, health and ageing;
  • how older exercisers' or athletes' words and actions simultaneously reproduce and resist dominant discourses of ageing, mainstream sport and health promotion; and
  • the positive and negative sociological and psychological implications of the promotion of sport to people across the lifespan, particularly to older people.

Dr Dionigi's research draws on and contributes to theoretical frameworks in the areas of ageing, identity, health, leisure, sport, policy and exercise. She locates and examines stories and experiences of older sport and exercise participants in the context of cultural discourses and/or policies of sport, gender and ageing. Therefore, her research shows how older people can experience a sense of empowerment and resistance, as well as conformity, to stereotypes through their involvement in sport, exercise and leisure. It also highlights the complexities and contradictions inherent in older people's physical activity practices and raises critical questions about what this might mean in the context of current health promotion policies and the ageing of the population.

2021– 2024: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Insight SPRI Grant. Sport, aging and disability: International perspectives on the meaning of sport in the lives of older adults living with a disability. CAD $81,170.00. Drs Horton, Dionigi,Weir, Van Wyk, Baker & Gard.

2015-2017: Department of Health, Social Services, Aged Care Service Improvement and Healthy Ageing Grants Fund. Social and Community links: Drivers of Healthy and Active Ageing. AUS$645,000. Drs Oliver Burmeister, Bernoth, Dionigi, Islam, Morrison, Akhter.

2013-2018:  Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Insight Grant. The meaning of sport in the lives of older people across the physical activity spectrum: Towards policy implications. CAD $199,492. Drs Horton, Dionigi, Baker, Weir & Gard.

2013-2015:  Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant. Assets for older adults: Creation of an inventory to measure psychosocial outcomes of sport participation. CAD $75,000. Drs Fraser-Thomas, Dionigi, Baker & Horton.

2010 – 2013:  Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Grant. Promoting Sports Participation: Exploring Physical Activity Patterns and Role Models of Aging among Older Persons. CAD $58,351. Drs Horton, Baker, Weir, Deakin and Dionigi.

2009:  University of Windsor, Canada, Humanities and Social Sciences Research (HSSR) Grant. Promoting Healthy Aging (Project extension). CAD $4,000. Drs Horton & Dionigi and Joselyne Bellamy (student).

2008:  University of Windsor, Canada, HSSR Grant. Promoting Healthy Aging. CAD $5,000. Drs Horton & Dionigi and Joselyne Bellamy (student)

  • Institute for Land, Water and Society, CSU
  • International Coalition for Aging and Physical Activity
  • Active Ageing Community Center Steering Committee (International)
  • Women in Research, CSU
  • Centre for Research and Education in Ageing (University of Newcastle)
  • Australian and New Zealand Association for Leisure Studies
  • Canadian Association on Gerontology
  • Leisure and Aging Research Group (LARG)
  • Confederation of Australian Sport (Research collaboration)
  • Adjunct, Graduate School of Kinesiology and Health science, York University, Toronto, Canada
  • Health Services Research Group, CSU
  • The Australian Sociological Association (TASA)
  • Introduction to Sport and Exercise Behaviour
  • Applied Psychology for Sport and Exercise
  • Exercise Psychology in Rehabilitation Settings

To view Dr Dionigi's publications please follow the link below:

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