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Recreational Sports & Fitness Day – February 22, 2025

Recreational Sports & Fitness Day is on February 22, and we are planning to celebrate it by having the best recreational sports activities ever! Did you know that Ohio State University and the University of Michigan are the forerunners of recreational sports in the United States? Recreational Sports & Fitness Day was created by NIRSA (National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association) to mark the association’s founding and celebrate “the positive benefits of recreational sports, fitness, and wellness.” Recreational sports are physical activities played to have fun, encourage social interaction, and build physical and mental fitness. Recreational sports are a key part of intramural sports, organized within universities or geographic areas.

History of Recreational Sports & Fitness Day

Since early in human history, our ancestors have been engaging in one form of recreational sports or the other without actually knowing what it was. They do these to escape from their mundane work and build stronger community bonds.

Recreational sports began in colleges in the mid-1800s. These sports were played between clubs from different schools during intercollegiate games. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that recreational sports became formal.

In 1913, two Midwest universities, Ohio State University and the University of Michigan established intramural sports departments focused on friendly sports between students.
On the establishment of these departments, John Wilce, the first director of Ohio State University’s program, said: “Every student should at least have had the chance during his college career to have obtained the social and moral benefits of membership on some athletic team, and opportunities should be given to him to form habits of recreational play which will be of value to him after college.”

The University of Michigan later went on to open the first recreational sports facility in the country. In 1919, the university appointed a graduate student, Elmer Mitchell, as the first Director of Intramural Sports. Elmer held the post for over 20 years and is considered the father of intramural sports.

Between 1928 and 1929, Elmer authored and co-authored “Intramural Athletics” and “Intramural Sports,” respectively. In 1946, Elmer taught a P.E. graduate student, William Wasson, who had a high interest in intramural sports. Wasson obtained funding from the Carnegie Foundation, which he used to research the intramural sports programs of historically black colleges and universities across the United States.

In February 1950, after publishing the results of his study, Wasson called for an Intramural Summit at Dillard University. The summit saw twenty representatives from universities and colleges across the country. Together with Wasson, these individuals formed the National Intramural Association, the precursor to today’s NIRSA.

Recreational Sports & Fitness Day timeline

The Early Beginnings of Recreational Sports

Michigan students set up exercise equipment on their university campus and begin having club sports.

Formal Recreational Sports is Born

Ohio State University and the University of Michigan establish departments for intramural sports.

The Book of Intramural Sports

Elmer Mitchell publishes his book, Intramural Athletics.

February 22, 1950
The Founding of NIRSA

20 representatives meet at Dillard University’s Intramural Summit, forming the National Intramural Association.

Recreational Sports & Fitness Day FAQs

Is exercise a recreational activity?

Exercise is not a recreational activity. Exercises are mainly done to improve wellness and fitness, while recreational activities are primarily for people who want to do something outside their routine and have fun at the same time.

What type of sports and recreation is the best?

There are no outright best sports and recreational activities. It all depends on what you’re planning to achieve by doing them. However, activities like swimming, running, backpacking, and cycling are perfect if you’re looking to burn excess body fat, build strength and endurance, and improve overall fitness.

Is sport considered recreational?

Sports are said to be recreational if it’s played to have fun or build mental and physical fitness. But it stops being recreational when it’s played professionally.

Recreational Sports & Fitness Day Activities

  1. Join your school’s Recreational Sports & Fitness Day activities

    Each participating school in Rec Day organizes recreational sports activities each year for their students and community. Check your school’s activity schedule for this year’s Recreational Sports & Fitness Day, and mark the time in your calendar. You definitely don’t want to miss out.

  2. Host a recreational sports activity

    No Recreational Sports & Fitness Day activities are happening close to you? Host one and invite your friends and neighbors! Doing that is not as difficult as it may sound. First, you need to draw a schedule that includes the time for each activity you want to have and the person conducting that activity. Send invites to your friends and neighbors at least a week before the primary day, and regularly remind them so they won't forget.

  3. Get your school to sign the pledge

    If your school does not host any activities on Recreational Sports & Fitness Day, it may mean they have not signed the NIRSA pledge. To get your school to start doing that, meet with the administration and encourage them to sign the pledge. The link to the pledge form is available on, and it only takes between 10 to 15 minutes to fill.

5 Interesting Facts About Outdoor Sports That Will Blow Your Mind

  1. Almost all American states have ski resorts

    40 out of the 50 states in the United States have a ski resort.

  2. The world record for climbing speed

    Libor Hroza, a Czech climber, holds the world record for climbing speed at 5.73 seconds for a 15m speed course.

  3. Rollerblading burns the most calories

    You can burn an average of 800 calories per hour just by rollerblading.

  4. The amazing disabled climber

    Bernard Goosen, a South African, summited Kilimanjaro twice in a wheelchair.

  5. Running tops the outdoor sports section

    About 58 million Americans run every year, making running the most popular outdoor sport.

Why We Love Recreational Sports & Fitness Day

  1. Recreational sports is fun

    Recreational sports provide an avenue to relax from everyday routine. You get to interact with friends and neighbors, engage in friendly activities, and simply have fun. These help to reduce depression and anxiety, enhance self-esteem, and improve the overall quality of life.

  2. Recreational sports offer health benefits

    There are myriad health benefits associated with recreational sports for both the old and the young. Research has shown that recreational sports help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, encourage healthy growth and development in children, and increase learning and productivity.

  3. Recreational sports are an opportunity for social interaction

    Recreational sports provide a space where people from different backgrounds and ethnicities can come together and engage in friendly competition. It allows people to make friends, build connections, and offer an equitable social interaction environment for people living with disabilities.

Recreational Sports & Fitness Day dates

2025February 22Saturday
2026February 22Sunday
2027February 22Monday
2028February 22Tuesday
2029February 22Thursday

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