Both leisure and recreation are crucial components of a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Leisure time is a time when people can do what they want, separate from work and other commitments.
Recreation and leisure play an important role in social wellbeing by providing people with a sense of identity and personal autonomy. Involvement in leisure time activities gives greater meaning to individual and community life and contributes to people's overall quality of life. Recreation can encourage personal growth, self-expression and increased learning opportunities, satisfying needs not met in people's non-leisure time.
For many people, participation in leisure and recreation increases physical and mental health. Recreation often involves a physical activity or sport. Increased physical activity can lead to decreased health problems, and higher productivity at work, especially when combined with a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.
The benefits for mental health are equally important. Several studies have demonstrated links between regular physical activity and a reduction in the symptoms of mild or moderate depression, stress, and anxiety. Passive leisure also has benefits for mental health, by providing an outlet for the mind. It may provide physical rest, tension release, opportunities to enjoy nature and escape from daily routine. Participation in leisure and recreation can also have social benefits. It creates opportunities for socialisation and contributes to social cohesion by allowing people to connect and network with others. It can also contribute to family bonding as families participate together in leisure activities.
Three indicators are used in this chapter. They are: subjective satisfaction with leisure, participation in sport and active leisure and experience of cultural activities. Together, these indicators present a picture of how people feel about their leisure time and also what they do in their leisure time. The first indicator is subjective satisfaction with leisure. This measures how people feel about both the quality and quantity of their leisure.
The second indicator measures people's participation in sport and active leisure. Moderate physical activity can improve a number of health outcomes, risk factors and diseases. This indicator gives us a sense of how active New Zealanders are.
The final indicator, participation in cultural and arts activities, measures people's involvement in cultural activities. Cultural activities contribute to individual growth, as well as providing opportunities for personal development, social cohesion and the passing on of cultural traditions.