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Sport vs. Exercise

Jun 11, 2014 | Uncategorized | 4 comments

Speaking with a friend recently about training, she told me that she ‘liked sport but not exercise’. To which I probably unhelpfully replied, ‘but you’re so much better at sport when you’re fit, and exercise makes you fitter’; showing off my uber competitive side.

Similarly, after a work netball practise (our first, with only 3 from our team), I exclaimed how much I’d loved training, whilst a colleague told me she’d hated it. That she didn’t mind working out, but didn’t enjoy the competitive side of our training session (not led by me, I hasten to add).

These conversations got me thinking about the difference between sport and exercise. You can be good at sport; be fast, have great hand eye co-ordination, be a natural. With exercise, usually you are fit, working towards getting fitter, or trying to lose weight. I don’t think you can be bad at exercise. Obviously you can have natural skills, strength, and moves that you don’t necessarily get, but as long as you put the effort in and are motivated, you’ll be fine. Less so with sports.

Thinking back, I’ve always been fairly sporty, getting involved with numerous different activities at school, but I wasn’t necessarily fit. It was the team aspect, and the competitive nature of sport that I enjoyed, which is why when I went to Uni and didn’t find a team that I loved, I became increasingly inactive.

Now my whole outlook has changed, if there’s something physically challenging on offer, mostly I’m up for it. Whether it’s playing netball or dodgeball, hiking, running or cycling. Even if I’m not very skilled at it, like tennis, I’m willing to give it a go. And I’ve found that what I lack in skills, I often make up for in fitness and OK hand-eye coordination.

Sport vs. Exercise

Obviously a lot of athletes, and sportsmen and women train to become better at their sports. They spend time in the gym, working on strength and cardio, to increase sporting performance levels.

Tom regularly plays football with friends, goes out for days of golf, loved our weekly dodgeball games and is always keen for a game of tennis on holiday. But he isn’t a gym goer. He won’t go out for a run unless he’s got something to train for like a half marathon. He doesn’t get the enjoyment from the exercise itself. He does however love that running has made him fitter and more agile on the football field!


I used to wish that Tom would come for a run or gym session with me, but the more I think about it, and try to encourage friends to get in to fitness, the more I realise that whether it’s playing netball or football (or dodgeball), going for a quick run or just walking to work, as long as you’re keeping active and you enjoy it, that’s all that matters.

Do you prefer to play sport or to do a solo style workout? Or do you exercise so that you can better at a sport? Until now, I’ve avoided playing netball as I hadn’t played since Uni and didn’t want to embarrass myself by being useless, however after having so much fun at training last week, it’s definitely something I want to start playing again.


  1. Kirsty

    Brill post!

    Exercise and sport are definitley very different! I’ve always been good at solo sports, growing up as a swimmer and having got into doing triathlons the past few years, hand eye co-ordination has never been a strong point for me so most team sports are a no no, plus i can be sometimes overly competitive (read aggressive! haha)

    I did get really into competitive cheerleading at university (stunting/gymnastics), which i miss sooo much but as its still a growing sport in the UK i feel to old to get back into it now (I’m 25)

    Kirsty x

  2. mia79gbr

    I tend to do most of my running solo, but recently I’ve joined a club and have found that I always push myself a bit harder when I’m running in my club vest or in a relay wioth a team rather than in a race where I’m just accountable to myself. I don’t tend to think of myself as a ‘team player’ – hate watching sport and actively avoid team activities like netball or football so it’s surprised me that i’ve loved running for the club so much!!

  3. Stephanie M

    haha, reading this has given me the sick feeling in my stomach from PE. I have NO hand to eye coordination, I was never fit and I hated HATED sport at school. I always felt I was letting others down and shyed away from any team sport. I still do, I have no idea of the rules, regs and still suspect I’ll let everyone down. Starting running a few years ago has got me more into sport, participating in solo things like running, and watching team sports. I don’t think I’ll ever be playing netball, hockey or tennis but I’m proud to be in my running club or Team Naturally Run, I’ll never win us any prizes but I am happy to make up the numbers and enjoy the social side.

  4. Harry

    From my own experience and what I have noticed from other people, it seems that there are two different types of people, generally speaking.

    1. People who naturally have strong hand-eye coordination (obviously there are many levels of this)
    2. And people who don’t (mind you, these people can still be very competitive, or even aggressive)

    Now, anyone can train their hand-eye coordination, but it seems that people who naturally possess it more strongly elevate towards competitive (ball) sports. Not only that, they also seem to be good at multiple sports….Like in my case, my main sport now is tennis, but if you give me a basket ball, soccer ball, Frisbee or an American football, I will do pretty good.

    When you want to play ball sports on a more competitive level and as your goals increase; then fitness, endurance and strength will play a much more important role. For example, if I am not able to easily run a 5 kilometer run, I will probably have issues trying to play a 1.5 – 2 hour tennis match at an intermediate to higher level.

    To get the most out of competitive sports, hand-eye coordination skills, fitness, endurance and strength should all be combined and worked on together.

    And for those who are not so good at hand-eye coordination (like many of my friends), keeping fit and strong is still very important……and most of them will often be running, hitting the gym and the weights, which is excellent in my opinion.

    However, for me, I will always be craving for a ball, the competitive drive, the explosive movements, and the goal oriented use of my body in terms of strength, flexibility and to certain extent endurance.

    But if you tell me to train and run for marathon, it would be something I really would not be interested in, at least for now. While many of my friends have done it with a lot of joy and determination.



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