ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Professor Rylee Dionigi

Professor Rylee Dionigi

Associate Professor Rylee Dionigi is interested in how older people’s meanings, leisure practices and ageing experiences are shaped by (and shape) social structures, health professions and practices, dominant cultural and medical discourses of ageing, physical activity and health, as well as current health promotion policies, such as ‘active/healthy/successful ageing’ guidelines targeting older people.

Her 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 A/Prof 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.

A/Prof 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.

Research Interests

  • Socio-cultural and socio-psychological dimensions of ageing, sport and physical activity in Western Societies
  • healthy ageing and leisure in later life
  • Critiquing health promotion trajectories

Bachelor Of Social Science (Hons) Charles Sturt University 1998

PhD The University of Newcastle 2004

External appointments and memberships

Member of the Sport & Society Research Network Advisory Board

Editorial roles on Journals

Invited Associate Editor for Leisure/Loisir (2020)

Deputy Editor of Annals of Leisure Research (since 2018)

Full Publication List CRO Research Output

Selected Publications

Peer Reviewed Papers

Geard, D., Rebar, A.L., Dionigi, R.A. &. Reaburn, P.R.J. (2020) Testing a Model of Successful Aging on Masters Athletes and Non-Sporting Adults,Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport,

Geard, D., Rebar, A.L., Dionigi, R.A., Rathbone, E. & Reaburn, P.R.J. (2020) Effects of a 12-Week Cycling Intervention on Successful Aging Measures in Mid-Aged Adults Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport.

Kunnen, M., Dionigi, R.A., Litchfield, C. & Moreland, A. (2019) My desire to play was stronger than my fear of re-injury’: athlete perspectives of psychological readiness to return to soccer following anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction surgery, Annals of Leisure Research, DOI: 10.1080/11745398.2019.1647789

Horton, S., Dionigi, R.A., Gard, M., Baker, J., Weir, P. (2018) “Don’t sit back with the geraniums, get out”: The complexity of older women’s stories of sport participation, Journal of Amateur Sport, 4: 24-51.

Grigg, M., Dionigi, R.A. & Smith-Tamaray, M. (2018) Rural healthy aging as defined and experienced by older Australians. The Journal of Aging and Social Change, 8: 91-107. doi:10.18848/2576-5310/CGP/v08i01/91-107.

Geard, D., Rebar, A., Reaburn, P., & Dionigi, R. A. (2018) Testing a model of successful aging in a cohort of masters swimmers. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 26: 183-193.

Dionigi, R.A., Fraser-Thomas, J., Stone, R.C., & Gayman, A. M (2018) Psychosocial development through Masters sport: What can be gained from youth sport models? Journal of Sports Sciences, 36: 1533-1541,

Dionigi, R.A. & Son, J. (eds., 2016/2017) Introduction to special issue on critical perspectives on physical activity, sport, play and leisure in later life. Annals of Leisure Research

Dionigi, R. A. (2017). I would rather die than live sedentary: Is the demonization of passive leisure creating a future generation of older people who will not accept inactivity? Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation, 33(3), 156-161. (invited review)

Gard, M., Dionigi, R.A., Horton, S., Baker, J., Weir, P., & Dionigi, C. (2017) The normalisation of sport for older people? Annals of Leisure Research.

Gayman, A. M., Fraser-Thomas, J., Dionigi, R. A., Horton, S., & Baker, J. (2016/7). Is sport good for older adults? A systematic review of psychosocial outcomes of older adults' sport participation. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology. 10(1), 164-185.

Geard, D., Reaburn, P., Rebar, A., & Dionigi, R. A. (2016/7). Masters athletes: Exemplars of successful aging? Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 1-35. doi:10.1123/japa.2016-0050

Gard, M. & Dionigi, R.A. (2016). The world turned upside down: sport, policy and ageing. International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics. 19406940.2016.1186719

Book Chapters

Son, J. & Dionigi., R.A. (2020). The complexity of sport-as-leisure in later life. In S. Kono, K. Spracklen, A. Beniwal, & P. Sharma (Eds.), Positive Sociology of Leisure (pp. 109-124). New York: Palgrave.

Dionigi R.A. (2018). Being older, female and athletic: Personal and cultural notions of resistance and conformity. In Fogel, C. (Ed). Critical perspectives on gender and sport. Common Ground Publishing (Chapter 19).

Stone, R.C., Dionigi, R.A & Baker, J. (2018) The role of sport in promoting physical activity among older people. In Nyman, S.R., et al (Eds.) The Palgrave handbook of ageing and physical activity promotion (pp. 673-691). Palgrave Macmillan, UK.

Dionigi, R.A., Gard, M., (2018) Sport for All Ages? Weighing the Evidence, in Dionigi, R., Gard, M. (Eds.) Sport and Physical Activity across the Lifespan: Critical Perspectives. Palgrave, Macmillan pp 1-20

Gard, M., Dionigi, R.A., Dionigi, C. (2018) From a Lucky Few to the Reluctant Many: Interrogating the Politics of Sport for All in Dionigi, R., Gard, M. (Eds.) Sport and Physical Activity across the Lifespan: Critical Perspectives. Palgrave, Macmillan pp  67-89

Hutchesson, R., Dionigi, R.A., Gottschall, K. (2018) ‘At-Risk’ Youth Sports Programmes: Another Way of Regulating Boys? in Dionigi, R., Gard, M. (Eds.) Sport and Physical Activity across the Lifespan: Critical Perspectives. Palgrave, Macmillan pp 155-173

Dionigi, R.A., Litchfield, C. (2108) The Mid-life “market’ and the Creation of Sporting Sub-cultures in Dionigi, R., Gard, M. (Eds.) Sport and Physical Activity across the Lifespan: Critical Perspectives. Palgrave, Macmillan pp 263-282

Dionigi, R. A.(2017). Leisure and recreation in the lives of older people. In M. Bernoth and D. Winkler (Eds.). Healthy ageing and aged care. Oxford University Press Australia and New Zealand (pp. 204-220).


Dionigi, R., Gard, M. (Eds.) (2018) Sport and Physical Activity across the Lifespan: Critical Perspectives. Palgrave, Macmillan


Deneau, J., Dionigi, R. & Horton, S. (2020) The Benefits of Masters Sport to Healthy Aging (Posted on March 19, 2020)

Current Projects

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

Completed Projects

Social and Community links: Drivers of Healthy and Active Ageing (2015-2017) Burmeister, O., Bernoth, M., Dionigi, R., Islam, Z., Morrison, M., Akhter, R. Department of Health, Social Services, Aged Care Service Improvement  $60,000

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