Should Exercise Be Sport – Really?


Coach Izzy

Recently, the topic that exercise -or exercise for fitness- should not be turned into a sport has sprung up aggressively.


Frankly, I have no idea what this means, not at least in true specificity.

Granted, arguments can be made on subjective perspectives, but they only beget emotional hollow exchanges and don’t address the question. Interestingly, whenever I inquire about the substance of the topic from those who condemn tarnishing the sanctity of exercise by turning it into sport, I never get a solid reply. I get plenty of “my client does…” or “this guru says…”or “when I…” but ultimately, the overemotional downpour does nothing to mitigate the chasm between the concepts of exercise and sport, let alone provide a useful perspective.

So what is this exercise should not be a sport cockamamie? When is exercise just exercise and when does it turn into sport?

Let’s start with the path of least resistance, and going where everyone goes to define their concepts; the old faithful dictionary. According to Merriam-Webster, Exercise can be defined as:

2) a : regular or repeated use of a faculty or bodily organ b : bodily exertion for the sake of developing and maintaining physical fitness.

3) something performed or practiced in order to develop, improve, or display a specific capability or skill .

And here’s how Merriam-Webster defines Sport:

1) a : a source of diversion : recreation b : sexual play c (1) : physical activity engaged in for pleasure (2) : a particular activity (as an athletic game) so engaged in.

So how do these definitions help clarify this conundrum of exercise and sport?

I do not think they do. Not when it comes to the realm of applying it to the field of biomechanics. You might think that checking out the exercise science literature would do the trick, but I have yet to find a general agreement that approves the definition -or distinction- between exercise and sport.

So, what expert should we listen to? Who is correct? Who is wrong?

In essence, all the experts are correct, at least when discussing their own segment of the continuum of exercise and fitness. The problem is that many of these experts are so enamored with their segment, they treat it as if were the whole. It is not surprise then; that the fitness and exercise forums are burdened with pointless discussions about the best exercises, the best training systems, the best nutritional programs, and other topics that should be integrated, not analyzed segmentally.

But really, WHO should we listen to?

Listen to them all, I say!

Each expert has a unique contribution and invaluable lessons. But notice I said “LISTEN TO” not “FOLLOW BLINDLY.” Just because a highly touted fitness icon goes around rambling about a particular system, it does not mean one should follow that lead. I believe it’s pointless to judge a system without first learning or experiencing it firsthand. Relying purely on hearsay or emotional opinions is relinquishing the gifts of thinking, to embrace drone-like, sheep infatuation. I don’t know about you, but I like to do my own thinking, thank you very much.

But now I want to present you with my views, and why I believe this argument of exercise vs. sport is nonsense. These are views I have fine-tuned after two decades in the field and extensive studying under many great teachers.

If you were to ask me to define exercise, I would tell you the following:

Exercise is the intentional and measurable application of predetermined mechanical forces to a structure via a motor pattern. Its intention is to enhance one or several aspects of physical capacity.

If you were to ask me about sports, I would tell you the following:

Sport is the execution of physical and mental skills to achieve a specific outcome in the shortest time span or with the fewest mistakes. Its intention is performance comparison among similar –arguably- competitors.

Yeah, I know, it does not give us the catchy, one-phrase-to-summarize-it-all, linear retort we like so much. We like it because it makes us feel as though we finally have THE answer, and we’ll be able to recite it to others verbatim, even if we don’t really understand what it implies….

PART II and Conclusion of this article can be found HERE.

About The Author


Coach Izzy has been part of the Strength and Conditioning field for over 25 years. He speaks of the advantages of self-sufficiency and the drawbacks of relying on the liner approaches the health world seems fond of.