Activity and operation in physical recreation domain: definitions and applications


PhD, Associate Professor M.A. Elmurzaev1
PhD I.A. Panchenko1
1St. Petersburg Mining University, St. Petersburg


Keywords: physical recreation, activity, operation, motor activity, physical recreational activity.

Background. Presently the notions of activity and operation are often interpreted in the modern study reports as synonymic albeit their meanings and definitions are somewhat different in fact. Moreover, the same term may be interpreted in different and even contradictory manners dictated by the individual viewpoints and research concepts. In some cases, for instance, it is an individual motor activity that is considered the key term for physical recreation, and in the others it is the human motor activity. However different these interpretations may be, they are much similar in the sense that they tend to describe the essence of physical recreation with reference to certain physical actions, activities and movements.

Objective of the study was to analyse the existing interpretations of the notions of activity and operation and show their similarities and differences in application to physical recreation.

Study results and discussion. The notion of activity is subject to consideration both for the bio-physiological sciences in terms of the interrelations of an organism with the environment and for general psychology that explores the logics of internal mental activity. In social psychology, however, no attempts have been made to analyse activity and its constituents, and the researchers only tend to emphasise that its every component is socially determined. It is through an activity that the internal integrity of biological and social components is realised in the individual development process since every individual is engaged through activity into the system of social relationship and, accepting the system, builds up own social identity. However, different forms of motor activity determine different aspects of individual mental processes, traits and conditions [1].

Operation may be described as a broader term as opposed to activity as it refers to every biological system and dominated by adjustment rather than transformation aspects. Operation refers to the energy-related and dynamic features of the subject system. Modern psycho-physiological studies tend to consider one or another form of operations in connection with variations of the general properties of the nervous system, individual temperaments and other qualities that determine the formal dynamic components. We fully acknowledge the role of the energy-related and dynamic characteristics in physical recreation studies albeit cannot agree with their role being decisive.

Activity as opposed to operations of biologically active systems assumes some actor i.e. a potential or real subject of activity plus some conditions and objectives for the activity. Activity may be referred to as the form of human actions in the context of purposeful attitudes of a human entity to the surrounding world with an intention to transform the latter in the context of own attitudes to the other people and own self.

It is S.L. Rubinstein who was the first to point to the need of the notions of activity and operations being clearly separated and defined. He mentioned that the notion of activity is still commonly applied in a too broad and unclear meaning. “In psychology we now and then discuss matters of mental activity indiscriminately referring to activity and operations in fact. When we identify thinking as a mental process we call it activity rather than operation. In the specific meaning of the word, we use the term activity or action only in case of an impact i.e. transforming effect on the surrounding things, and this means that activity in its essence as implied by the pure meaning of the word – is the subjective activity or practice” [2].

It should be noted that the very identification and consideration of the issue of physical recreation cannot be strictly formatted by only motor activity as the only and major category. This category is considered as one of the key categories of physical recreation together with some other categories like actor, conditions for activity and achieved result. Motor activity is implicitly included in the context of many other forms of human life since it may be described as a natural and vital need and objective “given” of every human and a genuine form of its interaction with the substantial world.

It may be pertinent, acting within the frame of our study of physical recreation, to identify the specific factors of motor activity that make it different from a variety of other forms and motor actions in other domains of human life. In view of the fact that physical recreation is ranked among a variety of physical culture and recreational forms, this kind of motor activity should rather be identified by the term physical culture and recreational activity to clearly define its specific features. Physical culture and recreational activity means conscientious, deliberately designed, accessible and voluntary motor activity taking place predominantly in the leisure domain and designed to transform the natural and social environments and own self i.e. the individual physical, mental and social identity. Physical culture and recreational activity is never formatted by strict regulatory provisions being driven by self-reliant and conscientious choice from a wide variety of accessible forms, means and tools and never requires some specific spatial and/or temporal conditions.

Every motor activity implies some actor. The modern psychological science gives a high priority to clarification of purposes of a motor activity driven by certain needs and motivations that determine the individual behaviours and actions that may be referred to as the subjective aspects of the needs for activity. If some need is considered the source for activity, then motor activity in the physical recreation domain will be largely driven by the relevant transformational, cognitive and values-and-motivations-dictated vectors.

The present recognition of the physical recreational needs being made subject to a special social and psychological analysis has been triggered by a conflict with its traditional interpretations in the contexts of the biological nature of the human body, its functional systems and, hence, preferred ways of entertainment. However, as demonstrated by the relevant study reports and practical experiences, actual needs for physical culture and recreational activity are much wider and deeper than the traditionally studied ones and they are driven by qualitatively different purposes than the past forms. It should be noted that the motor activity forms in the physical recreation domain may also be associated with varying degrees of motor inactivity. The relationship of motor activity and inactivity in one or another activity form has been traditionally identified by intensity, energy demand, workload and bodily impacts of the actions.

The notion of inactivity is commonly interpreted as not only lack of any activity as such but also as the degree of intensity of the activity variable down to a relative passivity and to a total inactivity. Passive activities may be described as the inadequate degrees of motor activity as verified by the relevant activity indices that may still be associated with other (mental, motor or social) forms of activity [3]

It is the personality factor that may be applied as a measure of one or another degree of activity in the context of actual needs for the source of activity being mobilised in the context of the relevant motivational domain etc. A need may be described as the factor that implies a conflict of subjective and objective, real and desirable, existing and necessary, potential and actual, internal and external, ideal and material aspects. It should be mentioned in this context that a personality is never totally driven by only the individual needs (despite their high motivational effect) as it rather designs its life strategy on its own assigning due priorities to own needs and the relevant forms and methods of activities to meet these needs. The wider and richer are the individual needs, the more active and potent is the personality in general.

The existing definitions of activity refer in fact to the two constituents of the latter related to the subject-object poles, with a special emphasis on the constituent that fixes the moment of action i.e. the moment of contact with the object or impact on the object associated with its transformation and/or transition from the activity to its objective outcomes or products. Conscientiously controlled substantive/ practical activity gives a key role to the objective products or outcomes of activity generated by the impact or contact geared to transform the surrounding.

Activity is wider than operation in the sense that an individual not only acts in practical terms but also thinks, feels etc. i.e. supports and controls the process by the relevant mental actions. Therefore, differences between both of the notions are largely due to the emphases and aspects critical for the case [4]. As far as the other constituent of activity (the mental one) is concerned, it remains largely potential and only pointing to the actor i.e. the individual taking the activity. Manifestations of activity may not be directly connected with the individual actor as they may rather refer to the internal prerequisites for the self-initiated movement, activity and its manifestation forms. Activity is primarily included into the essential specifications of operations since the human consciousness and mentality are always a part of a real, practical individual action as its regulatory component. Activity as such may not necessarily be determined by the content, design, tools and methods of the process that are traditionally and commonly considered critical for this notion.

Conclusion. It should be noted that activity is both wider and narrower than operation. As a mentality factor, it is narrower than operation (for the reason that operation is controlled only by consciousness i.e. never switches on mental activity and even goes beyond confines of consciousness being manifested in the activity outcome or product). As a personality factor, it is wider than operation for the reason that an individual not only practically acts but also thinks, feels etc.

The notion of activity may be reasonably classified with the group of general scientific notions that come very close to the general philosophical categories by the historical development paths and the actual definitions and roles in the modern scientific knowledge base. In its most general meaning, the notion fixes the universal feature of the material world that manifests itself in the ability for internal necessary movement that is closely connected with self-transformation, self-development and self-control processes. This generalised specification of activity is clarified and further detailed by specific scientific data to spell out a variety of types, degrees and forms of its manifestations.


  1. Bueva L.P. Chelovek: Deyatelnost, obshchenie [Person: Activity, communication]. Moscow. Mysl publ., 1978, 194 p.
  2. Rubinstein S.L. Ocherki. Vospominaniya. Materialy [Essays. Memories. Materials]. Moscow: Nauka publ., 1989, 205 p.
  3. Ryzhkin Y.E. Sotsialno-psikhologicheskie problemy fizicheskoy rekreatsii. Ucheb. posobie [Socio-psychological problems of physical recreation. Study guide]. St. Petersburg: Nestor publ., 2005, 160 p.
  4. Elmurzaev M.A. Vvedenie v teoriyu fizicheskoy rekreatsii. Ucheb. posobie [Introduction to theory of physical recreation. Study guide]. St. Petersburg: Polytechnic University publ.,  2015, 249 p.

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Modern physical recreation science has recently seen a fast growth of the theoretical studies to advance the still underdeveloped field of theoretical knowledge, with a special emphasis on the practical basics of the studies including key definitions, notions, categories and operational logics. New scientific disciplines have emerged to study a variety of physical recreation issues; new empirical data were obtained to expand the subject fields; and studies of this subject fields called for further clarifications of their contents and new interpretations. Presently the notions of activity and operation are often interpreted as synonymic albeit their meanings and definitions are somewhat different in fact. The article makes an attempt to analyse the existing viewpoints on the notions of activity and operation to underline the differences in their meanings and definitions in the physical recreation domain.