Leisure or free time, is a period of time spent out of work and essential domestic activity. It is also the period of discretionary time before or after compulsory activities such as eating and sleeping, going to work or running a business, attending school and doing homework, household chores, and day-to-day stress. The distinction between leisure and compulsory activities is loosely applied, i.e. people sometimes do work-oriented tasks for pleasure as well as for long-term utility.
For an experience to qualify as leisure, it must meet three criteria: 1) The experience is a state of mind. 2) It must be entered into voluntarily. 3) It must be intrinsically motivating of its own merit. (Neulinger, 1981)
The word leisure comes from the Latin word licere, meaning "to be permitted" or "to be free", via Old French leisir, and first appeared in the early 14th century. The notions of leisure and leisure time are thought to have emerged in Victorian Britain in the late nineteenth century, late in the Industrial Revolution. Early factories required workers to perform long shifts, often up to eighteen hours per day, with only Sundays off work. By the 1870s though, more efficient machinery and the emergence of trade unions resulted in decreases in working hours per day, and allowed industrialists to give their workers Saturdays as well as Sundays off work.
Affordable and reliable transport in the form of railways allowed urban workers to travel on their days off, with the first package holidays to seaside resorts appearing in the 1870s, a trend which spread to industrial nations in Europe and North America. As workers channelled their wages into leisure activities, the modern entertainment industry emerged in industrialised nations, catering to entertain workers on their days off. This Victorian concept - the weekend - heralded the beginning of leisure time as it is known today.
Types of leisure
Men relaxing in a cafe overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in Tel Aviv, Israel.
* Active leisure activities involve the exertion of physical or mental energy. Low-impact physical activities include walking and yoga, which expend little energy and have little contact or competition. High-impact activities such as kick-boxing and soccer consume much energy and are competitive. Some active leisure activities involve almost no physical activity, but do require a substantial mental effort, such as playing chess or painting a picture. Active leisure and recreation overlap significantly.
* Passive leisure activities are those in which a person does not exert any significant physical or mental energy, such as going to the cinema, watching television, or gambling on slot machines. Some leisure experts discourage these types of leisure activity, on the grounds that they do not provide the benefits offered by active leisure activities. For example, acting in a community drama (an active leisure activity) could build a person's skills or self-confidence. Nevertheless, passive leisure activities are a good way of relaxing for many people.
Examples of leisure activities
A woman relaxes in an urban park and enjoys a book during her lunch break.
People who work indoors and spend most of their time sitting and doing sedentary office work can add physical activity to their lives by doing sports during their leisure time, such as playing a ball game, going camping, hiking or fishing. On the other hand, people whose jobs involve a lot of physical activity may prefer to spend their free time doing quiet, relaxing activities, such as reading books or magazines or watching TV. Some people find that collecting stamps, postcards, badges, model cars or ships, bottles, or antiques is a relaxing hobby.
Free time is organized in many schools and institutions. Schools offer many extracurricular activities including hobby groups, sports activities, and choirs. Other institutions such as retirement homes and hospitals also offer activities such as clubs and meetings for playing games.
Most people like socializing with friends for dinner or a drink after a hard day at work. For many young people, having a regular night out a week is a normal part of their free time, whether it is joining friends for a drink in a pub, dining out in a restaurant, watching a film, playing video games or dancing the night away at a club.
Some people do leisure activities that also have a longer-term goal. In some cases, people do a leisure activity that they hope to turn into a full-time activity (e.g., volunteer paramedics who hope to eventually become professional paramedics). Many people also study part-time in evening university or college courses, both for the love of learning, and to help their career prospects.
Time for leisure varies from one society to the next, although anthropologists have found that hunter-gatherers tend to have significantly more leisure time than people in more complex societies. As a result, band societies such as the Shoshone of the Great Basin came across as extraordinarily lazy to European colonialists.
Capitalist societies often view active leisure activities positively, because active leisure activities require the purchase of equipment and services, which stimulates the economy. Capitalist societies often accord greater status to members who have more wealth. One of the ways that wealthy people can choose to spend their money is by having additional leisure time.
Workaholics are those who work compulsively at the expense of other activities. They prefer to work rather than spend time socializing and engaging in other leisure activities. Many see this as a necessary sacrifice to attain high-ranking corporate positions. Increasing attention, however, is being paid to the effects of such imbalance upon the worker and the family.
Throughout its early history, American society has been described as driven by the Protestant work ethic, a cultural view that is said to be inspired by the Protestant preacher John Calvin.