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Regional Comparison

The Big Cities Project


Leisure & Recreation:

Leisure and Recreation

Desired Outcomes

Everybody is satisfied with their participation in leisure and recreation activities. They have sufficient time to do what they want to do and can access an adequate range of opportunities for leisure and recreation.


Leisure and recreation are both crucial components of a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Leisure time is a time when people can do what they want to do, away 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 adds meaning to individual and community life and contributes to people’s overall quality of life. Recreation can encourage personal growth and self-expression and provide increased learning opportunities, satisfying needs not met in people’s non-leisure time.

For many people, participation in leisure and recreation improves their physical and mental health. Recreation often involves a physical activity or sport. Research clearly shows increased physical activity can lead to fewer health problems and higher productivity at work, especially when combined with a balanced diet and a 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 and opportunities to enjoy nature and escape from the daily routine.

Participation in leisure and recreation activities 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 do things together in their leisure time.


Three indicators are used in this chapter. They are: satisfaction with leisure time, participation in sport and active leisure and participation in cultural and arts 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 satisfaction with leisure time. This measures how people feel about both the quantity and quality of leisure time available to them.

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 measures people’s involvement in cultural and arts activities. Cultural activities contribute to individual growth and provide opportunities for social cohesion and passing on cultural traditions.