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Leisure Definition



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    Understanding Leisure.

    Too much work with no play makes Jack a dull boy.  This is a very common saying which depicts clearly the importance of leisure time to human beings.  Leisure time can have very many definitions but all of them emphasize on the fact that, it is time spent on other activities away from the normal day to day chores.  The definition of the word leisure is quite broad and complex but most people have tried to define it in simpler terms associating it to an act of having fun.  According to Hermann (2007), the origin of this word dates back to the 1300’s in Greece where it was defined as a state at which one has some free time at his own disposal to do as he pleases.  Since then, this word has been in use but no definite definition has been put forward as yet.  This research paper seeks to  explore the different definitions on the subject of leisure from various literature materials and their analysis in relation to a personal definition of the same.

    Definitions of leisure from the literature reviewed.

    There are very many definitions for the word leisure.  Some people have the notion that leisure is a vital part of human life while others feel that it is a waste of time and resources.  One of the earliest definitions of leisure was put forward by Aristotle, the only philosopher who viewed leisure as a fundamental human value (Rogers, 1996).  According to him, leisure is the freedom given to someone to engage in any activity which can either be specified or implied.  He adds that leisure is very important as it is the goal of every labor.  In other words, he implies that people usually work hard in order to earn money for leisure (Rybczynski, 1996).  A very different view of leisure is however expressed by Miller who defines leisure as a synonym for frivolity.  According to him, leisure activities refer to those things which one does when he or she has nothing better to do.

    Another view by Kaplan (2004) on leisure states that from a sociological point of view, nothing can be defined as leisure and that depending on the situation, anything can be defined as leisure.  In my view, this is controversial in that leisure is not anything, it refers to specific activities which are done away from the normal day-to-day activities.  Kaplan adds that from a humanistic kind of model, leisure is an end in itself and is also a state of being.  Similar views are shared by Pieper (2001) who defines leisure as a mental and spiritual state or an attitude of the mind and a state of the soul.  He argues that before one is compelled to take some time off-duty, the whole idea must first be visualized in the mind and soul and this forms the basis of the word leisure.

    Another definition given by Saunders (2005) defines leisure as any free time spent out of work and other domestic activities.  He also adds that leisure time is a period during which one engages in recreational activities after finishing the compulsory activities for the day.  This includes time after work, school, household chores and so forth.  Saunders further adds that for any free time to be referred to as leisure time, it must meet three major factors, that is, it must be involving a state of mind, one must have voluntarily entered into that kind of state and finally, the activities involved must be mentally motivating and relaxing.  Saunders goes ahead to classify the two major types of leisure activities which include; passive and active activities.

    Passive leisure activities involves things like watching television, listening to music, relaxing on the couch and so forth which do not require any physical or mental energy.  According to health professionals, this kind of leisure activities are not encouraged because they do not facilitate exercise which is highly important to the body.  Active leisure activities on the other hand require a lot of mental or physical energy and they include activities such as running, dancing, swimming, playing soccer and so on.  Other activities such as playing chess or solving a complex puzzle do not require much physical energy but they are mentally involving.  Experts highly recommend active leisure activities because they help to burn the extra calories in the body, assist in developing talents, encourage critical thinking and so on.

    Today, the most commonly accepted definition of leisure is one put forward by Roberts (1999) which refers to leisure as the time which is not occupied by either paid or unpaid work, domestic chores or personal obligations.  This definition has been widely adapted because it is inclusive, non-normative and highly applicable in research.  It is non-normative in that it does not limit the activities of leisure to only one perspective like most other definitions.  It is all round and inclusive of all the time which is free of formal of informal commitments.  The increased technological, social and economic changes which have taken place in the modern society have however had an impact in the society’s view of the whole concept of leisure making it necessary to revise this definition.  The revision is necessary in order to take into account some new forms of leisure which have come with improved technology such as video games, chatting over the Internet among others.

    Personal leisure definition.

    From a personal point of view, leisure can be defined as a period of time when one is free from any duties and has the freedom to engage in any activity that he or she wishes to.  The whole essence of leisure is to relax away from the normal duties and have some fun.  Leisure time can be spent in different ways as long as the activities which one engages in are freely chosen.  Different people have different ways of spending their leisure time.  Some may decide to engage in their favorite hobbies during this time, play games, take a walk, watch television among other things which are relaxing in their own perspective.

      I agree with Aristotle’s definition of leisure in that leisure time is fundamental for body relaxation and revitalization of the mind.  For any activity to be defined as a leisure activity, it should be able to confer either physical or mental relaxation.  In addition, it is true that the activities which one engages in during this free time should be voluntary, either specific or implied.  However, Miller’s view of leisure is quite different from my personal view because it does not see the importance of leisure.  Miller’s definition sees leisure time as the time left for waste when nothing better is there to do.  This is not true because leisure time is just time off-duties and not necessarily time left for waste as proposed by Miller.

    From the views by Kaplan and Pieper, it is true that the basis of leisure is the mind and it provides an end in itself.  This views however tend to concentrate too much on the state of mind and ignore the other factors of leisure which include time and leisure activities.  When defining leisure, time and activities should be included since they dictate the essence and the benefits of leisure.  The amount of relaxation or benefits achieved from a certain leisure activity depends on the amount of time spent on that particular activity and hoe effectively that time is utilized.  The definition given by Roberts according to my opinion is all inclusive and clearly defines the meaning of leisure.  My personal definition shares a lot of similarities with the Aristotle’s, Saunders and Roberts’ definition of leisure in terms of the time-factor and activities done during this free time.


    Though there is no any definite method of defining leisure, almost all the definitions reviewed reveal that leisure time is very important and it contains some aspect of free time. Activities done during this time are also voluntary, motivating and fun to engage in.  Leisure is very important in promoting both physical and mental health in that it helps to cope with work related stress, family stress and other type of stresses emanating from day to day activities.  The physical activities in which people engage in during their leisure time are also helpful in burning extra calories in the body, improving talents and gathering knowledge through mentally involving activities.  In conclusion it can be said that, any time spent in a properly organized kind of leisure activity is time well spent for the mind, body and soul.  Leisure time should be o0rganied in order to achieve maximum benefits in terms of physical and mental relaxation from every activity.


    Herman, H. (2007). The democratic philosophy of education: companion to Dewey’s       democracy and education. New York: Macmillan publishers.

    Kaplan, G. (2004). Leisure and recreation management. New York: Taylor & Francis.

    Miller, M. (2006). Leisure theory of value. Boston: McGraw publishers.

    Pieper, R. (2001). Leisure and sociology. New York: Viking

    Roberts (1999). Constraints on leisure. New York: Macmillan Publishers.

    Roger, B. (1996). Theories of Tyranny: From Plato to Arendt. Pennsylvania: Penn State Press

    Rybczynski, W. (1996). Waiting for the weekend. New York: Viking. pp. 21-22.

    Saunders, P. (2005). Psychology of leisure. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.


    Leisure Definition. (2016, Dec 24). Retrieved from

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