Defining Leisure and Recreation

Categories: Hobbies and Interests

Leisure is a general term and just like an umbrella, covers the terms, sport, recreation and play. Leisure is the overall term. Below is a diagram to help explain the relationship between leisure, recreation, sport and play:

On the continuum between play, recreation and sport, there are a varied level of effort and seriousness. Play is a non-serious form of leisure and sport is very serious.

Leisure can be very difficult to define. It is said to be the time spent outside of working commitments and other daily necessities.

It can be spent doing anything that an individual would like to do. It is said to be called 'free choice'. It is our 'free time' and is a complete opposite to work. There are many characteristics of leisure including your state of mind. Your state of mind is how you decide to spend your leisure time whether it is shopping or whether it is playing sport. Leisure may not always be relaxing but it has an aftermath of relaxation and a good feeling.

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Leisure may be active or passive depending on our state of mind. An example of a passive leisure activity is watching television. You are not active as you are only sat down watching television but it is a very popular leisure activity. An example of an active leisure activity is football. You are very active and you are running around. Leisure activities can also be home-based or away from home. An example of a home-based activity can be listening to music in the home and an example of an away from home activity could be going to the pub.

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Leisure is enjoyable and can be done anywhere.

A quote from Collins Advanced Vocational textbook of Leisure and Recreation says,

"Leisure can be defined as the time that an individual sets aside for activities or pastimes outside work or other necessities such as sleeping."


All the above activities are activities that are done in our leisure time. They are taken out when we do not have work, or everyday duties like sleeping and eating.

Recreation is also a free choice activity and is often active. It is more structured than leisure and is not usually done at home. Recreation implies enjoyment and the skill level does not matter. Recreation has a flexibility of rules and is very purposeful as it 're-creates the individual' or 're-charges the batteries' ready for work. Hobbies are usually productive with skill levels increasing with more practice. Recreation has a moral element and has a good attitude about it. Examples of recreation are swimming, stamp collecting and gardening. They are all 'creating' something, hence the word 'recreation'. Swimming creates a stronger person, stamp collecting creates a larger stamp collection and gardening creates a nicer garden.

Recreation is defined as, "the type of activities undertaken for enjoyment or relaxation during a person's leisure time."

There are physical and passive recreational activities. Physical activities are playing sport, playing music instruments and gardening. Passive activities are watching television, listening to music and playing computer games. 'Home-based' recreational activities are cheaper, for example, reading library books is free and eating at home is much cheaper than eating out. It is also non-dependent on anyone else whereas going to a restaurant would involve other people.

A quote from Kaplan in 1975, says,

'Activity voluntarily engaged in during leisure and motivated by the personal satisfactions which result from it...a tool for mental and physical therapy.'

This is a very good quote to describe the definition 'recreation'.

Play can also be very hard to define as many people have different views on what play is. Although a major football team play football every Saturday, competitive football is actually counted as sport. An example of play is 'tig'. 'Tig' is a game that can be played anywhere and does not have certain rules or boundaries. Play is very spontaneous and can be done on the spare of the moment. It can be played in the garden and is not competitive. It is make-believe and is often done to get away from the real world. There are no age boundaries and adults and children can play. Play is not very important and has a low level of skill. It is not compulsory and is a free choice what an individual decides to play. Playing does not have to be physical. An example of a non-physical game is playing cards. Whilst playing, no certain skills are being taught but people can learn new things whilst playing. Play can be defined as,

'Activities from which you get immediate pleasure without ulterior motive.'

This quote was taken from

There are many skills learnt by children through play such as physical skills like how to pass a ball properly in football. Other skills are cognitive skills, environmental, social and moral skills. An example for a cognitive skill is where you decide on a decision quick enough to react to it, for example, when an opponent comes towards you dribbling the ball, it is a cognitive skill that is used to decide whether you go and tackle them or not. An environmental skill is where you pick up from people what is the best way to care for the environment and the area around you.

Social skills are how you learn to react around each other, how you learn to be friendly with one another and learn how to communicate in the appropriate manner, for example, a social skill learnt through play is shaking the opponent's hand after a game. Moral skills are the way you act to other people and the manners use. For example if someone gives you something, you say 'thank you'. You know it is morally correct to thank the person. This is an example of a moral skill. Play is the opposite of sport.

Sport has many characteristics and can be defined as the most physical of leisure's field of study's. It can be very successful and competitive. Sport has a high level of skill and a high level of fitness. There are strict rules on and off the pitch. For example, on the pitch, one rule in football is that you are not allowed to tackle an opponent from behind. A rule off the pitch is that players are not allowed to take drugs. In sport, the outcomes are important as it may be for a league, cup or tournament.

There are qualified officials that have an important role in the game. There are many people who play sport as a job, therefore, are professional sports players. In sport there are tangible rewards such as the F.A. Cup in football. Sport is formal as it has organised dates and times when sport is going to take place. There is a lot of effort put into sport and a lot of work is put into practising for the sport. For each sport, there is a National Governing Body just like the Football Association in football and the

Sports players do still find it enjoyable as it is rewarding and fun to participate in.

The word 'sport' stems from the Latin word, 'disportare' which means 'to carry away'. Sport across the world is seen very serious and top sports players even put themselves through pain and emotion to succeed.

A definition of sport is,

'Any physical activity which has the character of play and which takes the form of a struggle with oneself or involves competition with others is a sport.'

This quote was taken from

There are many factors that affect the participation of people in leisure and recreation activities.

One of the most important factors are our peers. They can have a big influence on whether we do or do not participate. For example, if our friends really enjoy playing sport, you will be more influenced to take part also. But if our friends have the attitude that playing cricket is boring and we would be much better going to the cinema instead, you would be influenced in thinking the same.

Other influences can be by your parents. If your parents are behind you in playing sport and buy you equipment and transport you, they will be influencing you into deciding to play sport. If you decide you would like to play football for your local team and need some football boots and your parents will not buy you them, you may decide not to play as you do not possess the equipment to play.

A big influence on participation can be the opportunities you have around you. If the school you go to has a very good range of extra-curricular activities and has contacts with clubs in the area, you will be more influenced in taking part. If you have a higher opportunity to participate then there is a higher chance that you will participate. The area in which you live will influence you as well as there may be great facilities in the area or there may be none at all.

A big influence in which activity we decide to participate in can be role models, such as Michael Owen in football, Steve Redgrave in rowing and Paula Radcliffe in running. These are all professional and very successful sports players that have a big influence on what sport we participate in. They are all very good at there own activities and our skill level can also influence us in our participation. For example if you know and feel you are good at an activity, you will want to take part in it more often that in an activity that you are not so good at.

Some people have a lot of leisure time whereas other people have very little, this can also influence us on our participation as there may not be activities going on at the time you want to participate in.

Our culture can also have a big influence on what activity we decide to take part in. For example, if your Granddad, Uncle and Dad all were good footballers, you may decide to take part in football, as it is a 'family tradition'. Other influences in our participation can be our medical conditions and our disabilities. For example, a person in a wheelchair would not be able to play in the Premiership.

A major influence on our participation in leisure activities is our wealth and our disposable income (our money we have left after we have paid for all our necessities), Many leisure activities cost money to participate in so if we do not have much money to append, this may affect our decision in what we do. There are many things that influence our participation such as our sex. Netball is seen as a women's sport and men do not play. Although women play football, their status is nothing compared to men's football. There are rules that say men and women cannot play football together from the age of 11. The lack of men's netball teams and the lack of women's football teams can influence our participation in certain leisure activities.

Our level of fitness can also influence our choices as if we were very tall and very fit, we may decide to play a sport like basketball but if we had very strong arms, we may decide to choose to take part in rowing. Media can have a very big influence in our participation as it has a big influence in our lives. When you read the back pages of tabloid newspapers, you usually find that most of the pages are about football, because there is so much talk about football, you may be influenced in participating, just like if on the news, they say that it is bad to take part in basketball because you can hurt your ankles, you may be influenced in taking part in another sport.

The marital status of an individual can also influence participation. If you are married with children, your leisure time will be reduced as you have more daily necessities like picking up the children and caring for them.

Car ownership can have a major influence in participation also as if you have a car, it will be easier to access places that you cannot get to by public transport.

As shown above, there are a great number of influences in participation, whether it is friends or medical conditions.


Updated: Dec 12, 2023
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Defining Leisure and Recreation. (2017, Aug 21). Retrieved from

Defining Leisure and Recreation essay
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