The Difference Between Leisure And Recreation

  • Time to read: 5 min.

There is a substantial difference between leisure and recreation. Leisure is defined as the freedom to do what you want when you want. Recreation, on the other hand, is planned and structured. It usually involves physical activity and is often used to improve fitness or health. 

An Overview Of Leisure And Recreation

Leisure is the concept of free time that each of us has. The time when we are not working or have other obligations as it allows us to relax and recharge. Therefore, we can participate in leisure activities such as relaxing, enjoying our hobbies, or spending time with family and friends within our leisure time. Some leisure activities include reading, watching TV, going for walks, and spending time with family and friends.

On the other hand, recreational activities are a structured form of leisure time. It often involves physical activity and is used to improve our fitness or health.

We can participate in recreational activities at parks, recreation centers, or even in our own homes. Some recreational activities include playing sports, hiking, swimming, and biking.

Is Leisure Recreation?

No, recreation is a more structured form of leisure time.

While some people may use their leisure time to participate in recreational activities that improve fitness or health, this is not the primary purpose of leisure time. Instead, the primary purpose of leisure time is that it is time that is unobligated. 

If put into a chart it would look like this:



Often people see leisure activities as passive activities and recreational activities as physical.

However, some activities can be a leisure activity and recreational activity. What sets the same activity apart in the two categories is the intent.

Walking, for example, is an activity that can be both a leisure activity and a recreational activity. Which type of activity category the walking falls into depends on how you choose to walk.

If you are walking for leisure, you may take a stroll with no specific destination. If you are walking for recreation, you may have a particular route and pace you follow to get from point A to point B that gets your heart rate up as your focus is on getting some exercise.

Another example is reading. Reading can be both recreation and leisure as well.

If you are reading as a recreational activity, you may have a specific book that you are trying to finish. If you are reading for leisure, you may read whatever you want, whenever you want. 

The Benefits of a Leisure Lifestyle

A leisure lifestyle has many benefits. For one, it can help reduce stress levels. We can use it to relax and unwind from our busy lives when we have free time, which can help us feel refreshed and ready to take on the world.

Additionally, a leisure lifestyle can also lead to improved mental health. Spending our leisure time enjoying our hobbies or visiting with loved ones can boost our mood and help us feel more positive.

Finally, a leisure lifestyle can also increase our physical activity levels. While recreation focuses on structured physical activity, leisure often leads to increased activity.

When we have free time, we are more likely to walk, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or even get up and move around more. All of these things can lead to improved physical health.

Take our quiz Am I Satisfied With My Leisure to see where you are in your leisure lifestyle.

The Benefits of a Recreational Lifestyle

A recreational lifestyle has many benefits. When we participate in recreational activities, we get our bodies moving and increase our heart rate, decreasing the risk of conditions like heart disease.

Additionally, a recreational lifestyle can also lead to improved mental health. It can also be a fun and enjoyable way to spend our free time. Some examples of recreation include playing sports, going for a walk, biking, swimming, hiking, and visiting an amusement park.

Just like with leisure activities, when we have time to enjoy our hobbies or spend time with loved ones, it can boost our mood and help us feel more positive.

Finally, a recreational lifestyle can also help us meet new people and make new friends. When we participate in team sports or join a recreation center, we can socialize and interact with others. We all need to belong and know other people, so interaction with others leads to a strong sense of community and belonging.

60 No Cost Or Low Cost Leisure Activities

How Should One Use Leisure Time?

There is no right or wrong answer to how you should use your leisure time. It is up to you to decide what you want to do. It is your free time! 

You can use it to relax, enjoy your hobbies, participate in recreational activities or spend time with family and friends. Whatever you choose to do, a leisure activity or a recreational activity, make sure that it brings you joy.

Check out our guide Overcoming Barriers In Your Leisure Pursuits, if you have barriers to pursuing leisure activities, ranging from financial, social, or availability and distance of the leisure activity you wish to pursue.

What Sets Leisure And Recreation Apart? 

Both leisure and recreation are essential for our well-being, but they serve different purposes. Here are top five things that sets them apart:

  1. Leisure is the freedom to do what you want when you want
  2. Recreation requires some level of physical or mental exertion, while leisure does not
  3. Leisure does not have to be structured
  4. Recreational activities can be both social and solitary, while leisure activities are typically solitary
  5. Leisure is more spontaneous, while recreation often has a set goal or purpose

Final Thoughts

While both leisure and recreation are essential for our well-being, they serve different purposes.

Leisure is more about relaxation and enjoyment, while recreation focuses on improving our physical health.

So, think about what you would like to do in your free time and take advantage of leisure and recreation activities that relax and fullfill you. 

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