The haptic pleasures of ground-feel: The role of textured terrain in motivating regular exercise

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Abstract

This paper explores the role that somatic or bodily touch-based experience of ground surface textures plays in securing a commitment to health-giving exercise practices, and argues that ground-feel is a neglected and underrated dimension of how environments co-constitute health. Past work has largely either overlooked ground-feel or positioned rough ground solely as a barrier to bodily movement. This research, however, informed by mobile and video ethnographies of walking and mountain biking in Scotland, elaborates a number of ways in which the experience of textured terrain can produce sensory and emotional experiences that motivate regular exercise. The possibility of positive tactile as well as visual experiences of landscapes, including uneven as well as smooth surfaces, ought then to be taken more seriously in designing everyday outdoor environments that encourage the energetic movement of bodies. A key challenge is to identify the optimal mix of textured and smooth ground surfaces to encourage increased energetic engagement for the widest range of users.

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