Leisure can include virtually any activity. To help organize the options, researchers have classified lei­sure activities into four categories: cultural—such as attending sporting events, concerts, church ser­vices, and meetings; physical—such as basketball, hiking, aerobics, and gardening; social—such as visiting friends and going to parties; and solitary— including reading, listening to music, and watch­ing television (Bosse & Ekerdt, 1981; Glamser & Hayslip, 1985). Leisure activities can also be con­sidered in terms of the degree of cognitive, emo­tional, or physical involvement; skydivers would have high activity in all three areas. Examples of leisure activities organized along this dimension are listed in Table 12.2.

Table 12.2

Forms of Leisure Activity and How They
Vary in Intensity of Cognitive, Emotional,
or Physical Involvement

Sexual activity Highly competitive games or sports Dancing

Creative activities (art, literature, music) Nurturance or teaching (children’s arts and crafts) Serious discussion and analysis

Attending cultural events Participating in clubs Sightseeing or travel

Socializing Reading for pleasure Light conversation

Solitude Quiet resting Taking a nap

An alternative approach to classifying leisure activities involves the distinction between preoc­cupations and interests (Rapoport & Rapoport, 1975). Preoccupations are much like daydreaming. Sometimes preoccupations become more focused and are converted to interests. Interests are ideas and feelings about things one would like to do, is curious about, or is attracted to. Jogging, surfing the Web, fishing, and painting are some examples of interests.

Rapoport and Rapoport’s distinction draws attention to a key truth about leisure: Any specific activity has different meaning and value, depending on the individual involved. For example, cooking a gourmet meal is an interest, or a leisure activity, for many people. For professional chefs, however, it is work and thus is not leisure at all.

Given the wide range of options, how do people pick their leisure activities? Apparently, each of us has a leisure repertoire, a personal library of intrinsically motivated activities that we do regu­larly (Mobily, Lemke, & Gisin, 1991). The activities in our repertoire are determined by two things: perceived competence (how good we think we are at the activity compared to other people our age) and psychological comfort (how well we meet our personal goals for performance). Other factors are important as well: income, interest, health, abilities, transportation, education, and social characteristics (Lawton et al., 2002; Wilcox et al., 2003). For exam­ple, some leisure activities, such as downhill skiing, are relatively expensive and require transportation and reasonably good health and physical coordina­tion for maximum enjoyment. In contrast, reading requires minimal finances (if one uses a public library) and is far less physically demanding. It is probable that how these factors influence leisure activities changes through adulthood (e. g., physical prowess typically declines somewhat).