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Rathonyi, G. Sustainability-Sport-Physical Activity. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 14 April 2024).
Rathonyi G. Sustainability-Sport-Physical Activity. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed April 14, 2024.
Rathonyi, Gergely. "Sustainability-Sport-Physical Activity" Encyclopedia, (accessed April 14, 2024).
Rathonyi, G. (2021, February 18). Sustainability-Sport-Physical Activity. In Encyclopedia.
Rathonyi, Gergely. "Sustainability-Sport-Physical Activity." Encyclopedia. Web. 18 February, 2021.
Sustainability-Sport-Physical Activity

The present study is a synthesizing analysis of international literature on correlations between sustainability, sport, and physical activity. The study of sustainability is considered essential in modern research; its multidisciplinary approach relies on sports science and sports economics as well. There are several aspects of sustainability that are closely associated with health and health preservation; the beneficial effect of exercise on health is also widely known. For the analysis of this complex matter, our current study relied on secondary sources, and besides exploring specialist literature, it also illustrates and analyzes related statistical data. Our results highlight the correlations between living environment and physical activity, the importance of increasing individual commitment towards sustainability and using green spaces for exercising, as well as questions on social and environmental development in relation to physical activity. The study revealed the existence of highly complex links between physical environment, physical activities, and sustainability. The results section of our study provides a brief summary on the possible ways of making people physically active. Increasing physical activity is of paramount importance for achieving the objectives formulated in relation to sustainability.

sport sustainability living environment health activity lifestyle awareness

1. Introduction

Nowadays, sustainability and sustainable development are widely used phrases that have become almost trivial. We consider it important, however, to highlight that sustainability means a strive towards development pathways that can be pursued continuously without compromising the reserves and opportunities of future generations and forms of life. Sustainability can be interpreted not only in social, economic, and environmental terms, but also at the international, national, regional, local, and organizational level [1]. Weak sustainability supporters agree that these three pillars are equally important; on the other hand, they also claim that development cannot lead to a decrease in the total amount of economic, social, and environmental capital [2]. In a broader sense, sustainability can be interpreted as the environmental dimension of sustainable development, while in the strict sense, the principle of sustainability is interpretable in terms of processes [3]. In the present article, we accept the common definition of sustainability as a phenomenon that is described with regards to the needs of future generations. People that are currently living on Earth need to pay attention to the needs of future generations while they are covering their own needs in all cases [4]. The current meaning of the notion “sustainability” is a result of continuous improvement, a kind of evolution. The result of this tendency is a notion that is valid for several aspects of the world [5][6][7]. As most people tend to associate the notion of sustainability with environmental aspects [8], the present study also focuses on the associations between sport and environmental sustainability. The relationship between sport and sustainable development is undisputed and quite diverse. Nowadays the connection of the physical activities and the nature is widely recognized and this tendency has a positive effect on the recognition of environmental circumstances as factors influencing the entire sports life concept [9]. Consequently, in the literature of sports sciences, increasing attention is notably being paid to sustainability in sport, and managers involved in competitive sports also focus more and more on sustainability [10]. Due to the nature of the topic, the study of sustainability requires conducting long-term assessments, where the examined sample needs to be re-assessed from different aspects from time to time, and the results need to be further analyzed. This, however, is hindered by the fact that research funds are rarely available for the study of a specific aspect for such a long time that would yield measurable results in activities implemented with the aim of reaching sustainability [11].

When examining the relationship between sustainability and quality of life or sport, we can draw the conclusion that sustainable development is aimed at protecting and preserving our existing natural and cultural values, as well as the economic and technological achievements of our civilization, which ultimately refers to a desire closely associated with our quality of life. To put it simply, our subjective quality of life is reflected in our health, which—as we all know—has a variety of physical, social, and emotional aspects. Quality of life is a complex construct; it involves both the physical, mental, and social wellbeing of society and its individual members. It means the level of adaptation achievement that individuals can obtain when adapting to their physical, biological, social, and economic environment, and their changes. Since the turn of the millennium, research conducted in the field of quality of life, especially the subjective quality of life, has been of paramount importance. The leading experts of this topic consider subjective quality of life to refer to how individuals assess their own lives, whereas others [12][13] regard it as a synonym of happiness. Participation in different physical activities and in sports has a positive effect on the health status of people. Physically active people can obtain several health benefits from it. Physical activities are able to decrease mortality rates as well [14][15][16]. On the other hand, the positive effects of physical activities can be seen in the case of psychological aspects as well. Physical activities support the mental well-being and the social aspects of individuals as well by strengthening their social relations. They also have a positive effect on self-evaluation and on the overall satisfaction with life [17][18][19]. The results of research on the subjective quality of life have also demonstrated that it not only affects the physical or mental health of an individual, but also affects their social, demographic, and economic position, and the quality of their social relationships [20][21][22][23][24][25]. The socioeconomic status plays a crucial role in the case of participation in physical activities. People with a lower socioeconomic status participate in physical activities less often, while people with a higher socioeconomic status usually participate more often in these activities and in sports [26][27]. The reasons for lower participation rates in the case of a lower socioeconomic status are a lack of free time and a lack of available money [28].

Studies on the quality of life are gaining increasing importance in the social sciences. These studies provide both subjective and objective evidence regarding the implementation and efficacy of different policies (economic, education, health, transport, etc.). The cross-European study “Quality of life in Europe” conducted in 2003 assessed and evaluated the health of the European population, the level of their subjective quality of life, and their level of satisfaction regarding services, as well as their time management.

Sustainability criteria play an important part in more and more health and regional development policies; these criteria appear as targets in several special and regional Agenda 21 frameworks. Such frameworks are Health 21, and Local Agenda 21. The Healthy Cities Program (2002) considers the notions of health and sustainable development to be closely related and overlapping constructs. Nowadays, when most of the population lives in urban areas, i.e., in cities, it has become necessary to develop concepts and action plans that support individuals in having a healthier lifestyle and practicing more environmental awareness. These projects aim to make settlements more livable by creating a sustainable infrastructure with consumer and environment-friendly services that promote physical activities, as well as increasing community participation. Hopefully, recognizing the effect of social and economic policies and practices on health will have a long-term impact on decision-making regarding societal development. To enhance these initiatives, a number of educational programs have been launched all over the world to help students learn how sport sciences can promote the advancement of sustainable development [29].

Sport plays an inevitable role in sustainable development and the long-term provision of an ever-improving quality of life. We can analyze physical activities and sports from the viewpoint of social capital as well. The importance of social capital appears on every level of the society from the level of individual persons to the global level. The value of social capital can be developed by the development of the health status of people. In this case, the health status can become one of the fundamentals of the sustainability because health relief means covering the needs of the people actually living on the planet but the prevention of the emergence of health problems in the first place has a positive effect on the future perspectives of the next generations. This role is obvious for example in the case of winter sports or water sports, since the environment needed for them either involves nature itself or some kind of imitation of the natural environment. In other sports, this relationship may be less obvious; fresh air, healthy and sustainable nutrition, and predictable weather are necessary for training; however, they are also essential for the successful pursuit of almost all sports [30]. As an activity, sport also shapes the environment: exercising also requires different devices and apparatus—for example sport equipment, the production and trade of which makes use of environmental resources. In addition, sport itself can affect the environment, for example in the case of sports that can be done in places far away from the participant’s residence (e.g., skiing, surfing); these sports themselves would barely affect the environment [31].


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