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  1. #1

    Default Hiking - an activity or a sport?

    Perhaps discussed before, however this philosophical topic seems to cycle around campfires and more than a few other places. There are two questions usually related in this;

    Is hiking an activity or a sport?
    Are hikers athletes?

    Hiking as a term is pretty casually used, from describing quarter to half mile walks to see a popular feature like a waterfall and to through hiking the AT.

    Though I have opinions on this, I'd be interested in what thoughts about this are bouncing around.

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    As a single guy, that dates..women out there make the statement that they "love hiking". Im sure they do love it. But when you break it down, their idea of hiking and my idea of hiking are vastly different. Their version involves walking on a graded or paved path that usually runs the perimeter of a park or is an old rail road bed. Mine..well...involves hiking in the woods for the day being sweaty and tired and exhausted and sometimes lasts for a few days at a time. My version is more of a "sport" their version is more of an "activity"

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    Super Moderator Ender's Avatar
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    Funny question. The definition of "sport" has been a long running discussion in my office (to kill time, not for any serious reason) and we have come to a very specific definition of the term "sport". It requires a few things (and again, this is not a serious thing, just some office coworkers BS'ing to kill time).

    (1) It's a team event, scored and competitive
    (2) It's not a race
    (3) It's timed
    (4) And most importantly, blood is shed on a more than regular basis.

    Hiking doesn't meet the first three of these criteria, so it's not a sport.

    That said... athletes can be involved in non sport activities. Baseball, for example. Not a sport, but with very talented athletes. Bike racing, very athletic. Etc etc etc. So maybe hikers are athletes? Not sure... we haven't spent the countless hours discussing the definition of "athlete" yet. I'll get back to you all when we do.

    Anyway, just thought I'd throw my humorous office talk definition of "sports" into the mix.
    Don't take anything I say seriously... I certainly don't.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AT Traveler View Post
    Perhaps discussed before, however this philosophical topic seems to cycle around campfires and more than a few other places. There are two questions usually related in this;

    Is hiking an activity or a sport?
    Are hikers athletes?

    Hiking as a term is pretty casually used, from describing quarter to half mile walks to see a popular feature like a waterfall and to through hiking the AT.

    Though I have opinions on this, I'd be interested in what thoughts about this are bouncing around.
    recreational activity. no need to be athletic. it's just walkin'

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    Activity - not a competition against competitors or clocks and no winners or losers.

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    As crazy as he may be, LoneWolf's theory of "it's just walking" applies here.

    To the majority, it's a recreational activity. No athleticism is needed to put one foot in front of the other... It's human nature.

    To the folks that put in 40+ miles a day in from end to end, that takes athleticism. & since they are competing for best times, I'd say it becomes a sport then.

  7. #7

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    A similar thread came up a while ago; I hope my answer is consistent...

    Hiking can be either an athletic sport/activity or just an activity/recreation. Definition of athlete is found here:
    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/4...es-the-athlete

    Excerpt:

    "According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, an athlete is "a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina."



    I liken it to bike riding. You have people that just go out and ride a bike and then you got the people that take it to another level. Riding a bike has the potential to be an athletic endeavor, but the way most (at least around here) ride them, it's just a recreation.

    I'm an athlete on a bike, but during my hikes it's probably more of an activity/recreation. I don't really push myself on hikes, but then again when you do long distance hikes then I guess you could argue that you're developing some sort of athletic ability, especially if you carry a 60-lb pack.


    P.S. I hate the term athlete, it reminds me of Jocks, but I have to admit I'm somewhat of an athlete, but don't like to say I am; I'm definitely NOT a jock.

    And just because you are not in competetion with others doesn't determine if it's an athletic activty.

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    I don't know why so many people want to expand the definition of a sport to mean heavy physical exertion. A sport just is some sort of physical competition against others.

    As such 'hiking' by itself is not a sport, but shuffle board is. But if you are hiking for a goal, such as completing a thru hike or some other recognized certification such as a high peaks patch, it then is a sport, you are competing for the goal to either complete what others have done or fail in the process of trying.

    An athlete is the person who competes and excels in sports (or a sport), I would however consider a hiker more of a potential athlete then a shuffle board player.

  9. #9

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    Shuffleboard would be a game, much as bowling is a game. Mastery of technique is all that is required that would be absent physical conditioning and endurance. Baseball would be a sport, given the various physical demands of the player during competition (not unlike hiking really).

    Probably this needs to be bifurcated - activity might be casual walking on relatively low demanding paths, sport might be a more purposeful walking pace with a distant destination?

    Athlete or participant might benefit from the same bifurcation - participant would be the walk to the waterfall and back on a gravel path from the parking lot, the athlete would be 15 miles with thousands of feet in elevation gain/loss in a day (or measured time).

    I confess I can be competitive with myself on trails that I frequent, using GPS to see if I can get a better time with a harder workout, which is akin to a cross country runner for example. Then there is the group of noisy people 50 yards ahead you speed up to pass and put some distance between you, adding a "competitive" element to it.

    Bottom line is I think there is a fairly significant difference between casual hikers/walkers and those who take it more seriously and put in 500 miles or so a year.

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    It's an activity. The 0.5% of hikers who are trying to make it a competition just get talked about a disproportionate amount. These same people probably turn everything they do into a competition.
    Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

  11. #11

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    Let's see if I can figure this out using Wikipedia.
    The SportAccord has developed a definition of sport to determine whether an applicant federation qualifies as an international sports federation.

    SportAccord's definition of Sport is the following definition:[3]

    • The sport proposed should include an element of competition.
    • The sport should not rely on any element of “luck” specifically integrated into the sport.
    • The sport should not be judged to pose an undue risk to the health and safety of its athletes or participants.
    • The sport proposed should in no way be harmful to any living creature.
    • The sport should not rely on equipment that is provided by a single supplier.

    SportAccord uses five categories for its member federations' sports, many of which fall into more than one category:

    So not a sport by this definition.

    There are many definitions of Activity, Perhaps Physical Exercise?
    "Physical exercise is any bodily activity that enhances or maintains physical fitness and overall health and wellness."
    No. Any improvements to physical fitness and health are purely accidental. Most hiking trails seemed designed to promote physical abuse rather than fitness.

    Hiking is an Outdoor Recreation or Outdoor Activity:
    "leisure pursuits engaged in the outdoors, often in natural or semi-natural settings out of town"
    It's leisure.
    Leisure, or free time, is time spent away from business, work, domestic chores, and education. It also excludes time spent on necessary activities such as sleeping.
    The distinction between leisure and unavoidable activities is not a rigidly defined one, e.g. people sometimes do work-oriented tasks for pleasure as well as for long-term utility.[1] A distinction may also be drawn between free time and leisure. For example, Situationist International maintains that free time is illusory and rarely free; economic and social forces appropriate free time from the individual and sell it back to them[clarification needed] as the commodity known as "leisure".[2] Certainly most people's leisure activities are not a completely free choice, and may be constrained by social pressures, e.g. people may be coerced into spending time gardening by the need to keep up with the standard of neighbouring gardens.
    So hiking is a commodity, constrained by social pressures, pushed on you by economic and social forces to appropriate your free time.

    Makes me feel proud to be a hiker.

  12. #12

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    I think it's a matter of style, not all who hike are athletes, and yet some athletic hikers may choose to take a hike slower at times.

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    Like cycling, it can be a competitive sport, or a non-competitive sport, or as a non-sporting activity to get from A to B.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JAK View Post
    Like cycling, it can be a competitive sport, or a non-competitive sport, or as a non-sporting activity to get from A to B.
    welcome back JAK...been awhile.

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    If Golf, Fishing, and Bowling can qualify as a sport...
    If you buy your gear at a sporting goods store...
    If there are specific techniques and general practices...

    On the other hand-
    Taking a stroll is taking a stroll.
    Tossing a lure or whacking a ball in between beers don't make me a fisherman or a golfer.
    When the wife and I take a walk, I call it a walk.

    When I go on a hike- I'm hiking for the pure joy and love of hiking.
    Sounds like what most athlete's say when they speak of participating in their sport.

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    It's a disport, athletes welcome but not required!

  17. #17

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    I don't know about Hiking, but backpacking with overnight bag nights is definitely a competitive sport. You're in fierce competition with yourself to either get off the couch and quit eating bacon and pork rinds and stop working so much and get off the rat wheel to achieve some sort of outdoor life---OR NOT.

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    Quote Originally Posted by A.T.Lt View Post
    As a single guy, that dates..women out there make the statement that they "love hiking". Im sure they do love it. But when you break it down, their idea of hiking and my idea of hiking are vastly different. Their version involves walking on a graded or paved path that usually runs the perimeter of a park or is an old rail road bed. Mine..well...involves hiking in the woods for the day being sweaty and tired and exhausted and sometimes lasts for a few days at a time. My version is more of a "sport" their version is more of an "activity"
    Truth!!

    I cant tell you how many city girls told me they "loved hiking" when I was dating. Like you said, their version of hiking involves a short jaunt 30 minutes from the city with pretty views, a little effort, and no dirtiness. Back at the car by 2.

    But hiking, any way we slice it, is not a sport. It is not organized, it's noncompetitive (usually), and there are no rules of play. There are no awards. It's an activity. Like scuba diving or paragliding.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Just Bill View Post
    Taking a stroll is taking a stroll.
    Tossing a lure or whacking a ball in between beers don't make me a fisherman or a golfer.
    When the wife and I take a walk, I call it a walk.
    It's long been customary to call hunters, fisherfolk, equestrians, and so on 'sportsmen,' even though they are seldom competing with one another. And a secondary definition of 'sport' is, "a physical activity (such as hunting, fishing, running, swimming, etc.) that is done for enjoyment". I'd call hiking a sport in that broad sense.

    Is hiking a competitive sport? Only for a handful of us. Most of us respond to that with a shrug, and "if you're in such a hurry, why are you walking?"

    Is hiking something that we train for, try to improve our technique, look to go faster, higher, farther? Surely most of us do. But (for me at least) that's not about competition, it's about getting to places that I can't get to other than by hoisting a backpack and slogging. (And the slog itself turns out to be fun, also.) If an athlete is someone who trains for activities requiring physical skill or strength, then hikers are athletes. If we go to the Greek αθλητης, then the word means 'competitor for a prize,' and I suppose we're not athletes then.

    Of course, this is the perspective of a clueless weekender. I've never done a long section, to say nothing of a thru-hike. I do short miles, and go slow. But I like to flatter myself that I have a certain amount of skill in such things. Within my limitations of mileage and speed, I go just about anywhere, on trips that may involve wading streams, snowshoes, rock or ice scrambling, or crashing through dense brush to a trail-less destination. I like to flatter myself that such things require a modicum of skill. Call me an "extreme tourist," if you will.I'm probably not a hiker by the definition that a lot of you guys seem to use. I just like getting out there (with a backpack if the journey is far enough that I need one) and seeing nifty places, photographing lovely subjects, smelling balsam-scented air, and not worrying about when a walk turns into a hike or a physical pastime becomes a sport.
    I always know where I am. I'm right here.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ender View Post
    Funny question. The definition of "sport" has been a long running discussion in my office (to kill time, not for any serious reason) and we have come to a very specific definition of the term "sport". It requires a few things (and again, this is not a serious thing, just some office coworkers BS'ing to kill time).

    (1) It's a team event, scored and competitive
    (2) It's not a race
    (3) It's timed
    (4) And most importantly, blood is shed on a more than regular basis.

    Hiking doesn't meet the first three of these criteria, so it's not a sport.

    That said... athletes can be involved in non sport activities. Baseball, for example. Not a sport, but with very talented athletes. Bike racing, very athletic. Etc etc etc. So maybe hikers are athletes? Not sure... we haven't spent the countless hours discussing the definition of "athlete" yet. I'll get back to you all when we do.

    Anyway, just thought I'd throw my humorous office talk definition of "sports" into the mix.
    If you do not believe Baseball is a sport, you loose all credibility! It is America's #1 sport!
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