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1. Introduction

In our current society, lifestyles of people are closely related to the use of their spare time. The enjoyment of these periods of time is a basic and individual right that must be ensured and promoted for all citizens (Cuenca, 2014). Among young people, sedentary activities related to the use of technological devices are becoming increasingly widespread. The rise of communication technologies as means of personal entertainment is gaining prominence among individuals of new generations, the so-called digital natives, at the expense of other forms of leisure (Melendro, Garcia-Castilla, & Goig, 2016; Valdemoros, Sanz, & Ponce de Leon, 2017). This rapid change towards sedentary lifestyles places daily physical activity levels of Spanish population below the recommendations of the World Health Organization (Ministerio de Sanidad, Servicios Sociales e Igualdad, 2014), being considered as one of the major risk factors closely linked to increased obesity, diabetes, hypertension and other non-communicable diseases (Sotomayor, Aquino, Jimenez, & Trejo, 2014).

Facing passive leisure, sports leisure practices are presented as a considerable power of attraction among young people in our society. It should not be forgotten that sports spread among youth population as social entertainment under the influence of mass media (Gomez, Puig, & Maza, 2009). The media contributes to the promotion of sporting models based on high performance, becoming the lure for many young people deciding to begin with the practice of sporting activities.

Sports leisure practices have become gradually popular because of the benefits associated to the promotion and maintenance of bodily health; however, in recent times, sportive physical activity practices related to image enhancement have increased significantly, especially among girls (Olive, Byrne, Cunningham, & Telford, 2012; Valdemoros, Sanz, & Ponce de Leon, 2012). This concern over body image stands out as one of the main reasons to practice sportive physical activities along with vital satisfaction per se and the fun related to this type of leisure (Zullig & White, 2011; Pedisic, Greblo, Phongsaban, Milton, & Bauman, 2015; Ahedo & Macua, 2016; Fraguela, Varela, & Sanz, 2016).

Sports leisure has other benefits that are less visible for young people, but especially relevant from a social perspective. This way, sports have a great potential for integration, promote communication and interaction among people of different nationalities and cultures (Consejo Superior de Deportes, 2010) and enables socialization processes in youth environments (Gutierrez del Pozo, 2011). Sports activities have been traditionally used as a resource for the prevention of antisocial behavior, favoring the adoption of responsibilities, decision-making and resilience (Hellison, 2011). Therefore, sports leisure practices among potentially vulnerable young people are considered a tool for development and integration in different social contexts (Spaaij, 2009; Haudenhuyse 2013; Fernandez-Garcia, Poza-Vilches, & Fiorucci, 2015; Lopez-Noguero, Sarrate, & Lebrero, 2016). Thus, Martinez (2016) underlined the importance of sports habits in vulnerable youth by associating them with health care, socialization and affective-social containment. In the same vein, Chalip and Hutchinson (2016) emphasized the need to propose sports activities focused on the development of social skills in this population.

Despite the studies reviewed, very few of them compare sports leisure practices of potentially vulnerable young people and non-vulnerable individuals. Data from the Survey of Sporting Habits in Spain 2010 inform that, despite the trend of the past few years showing that sports leisure of the youth population in general has increased its presence in our society, a relevant decrease among young individuals without schooling or with a low socioeconomic status has been identified. Likewise, regarding the organization of sports practice, there seems to be a widespread increase of non-organized practice among young people between 15 and 24 years old. Sports leisure (either through free or organized practices) is a factor to take into account, given that it affects the adherence to sportive physical activities and its benefits among our young people (Ahedo & Macua, 2016). This way, during youth, the practice of organized leisure activities enhances social relations and contributes to the consolidation of sports habits in adulthood (Ransdell, Vener, & Sell, 2004), while self-management of sports leisure activities improves intrinsic motivation and satisfaction of young people (Lazcano-Quintana & Caballo-Villar, 2016).

2. Justification and objectives

This study responds to partial results of a large network research on leisure time of young people. Regarding leisure during youth, social dimension of sportive physical activities goes beyond the promotion of feelings of belonging and participation. Sports are considered a tool which contributes to social cohesion and inclusion of vulnerable young people (Comision Europea, 2011). Therefore, it is necessary to consider the study of sports leisure habits of potentially vulnerable young people and investigate the existing differences between them and non-vulnerable young people. For the present paper, three objectives are defined. The first goal is to describe sports leisure habits of young people at risk of vulnerability and non-vulnerable young people. The second one is to analyze the preferences of potentially vulnerable and non-vulnerable young individuals when performing sports leisure activities in an organized or autonomous way. Finally, the third aim is to examine whether the perception of the benefits from sportive physical leisure for vulnerable youth follows a similar pattern to that of their non-vulnerable peers.

3. Methodology

This research has followed a quantitative methodological process within the framework of a coordinated network project conducted by seven Spanish universities. This transversal study has worked with a descriptive, inferential and ex post facto design. For this work, sports leisure choices of potentially vulnerable and non-vulnerable young people have been explored. Likewise, the goals mentioned in the previous epigraph lead to the two hypothesis guiding this study, which are presented below. The first hypothesis is that the variable vulnerability makes a difference in the preference of organized sports practices. The second one considers that the variable vulnerability may influence the perception of the benefits from sportive physical leisure activities.

3.1. Participants

In order to select participants, a probabilistic stratified sampling using proportionate allocation was performed, establishing as a territorial reference the Nielsen areas and, within them, type of educational center, gender and grade. A total of 2694 post-obligatory and non-university students participated. Participation was high, ensuring the representativeness of the sample with a 1.9% margin of error and a confidence level of 95%:

3.2. Instruments

An ad hoc questionnaire on the organization of academic and leisure time was prepared. This article shows the results for the following variables, corresponding to description of students, free time and health and quality of life in the blocks of the questionnaire:

Vulnerability: in order to study vulnerable youth, a variable was created according to the following criteria:

--Studies: All the students of Initial Professional Qualification Programs (PCPI) and Basic Vocational Training (FPB) were included.

--Household income: students belonging to family units presenting incomes at or below five hundred euros were selected.

--Family situation: the situations chosen displayed students having no mother or father, being in foster care or categorized as 'others' (because they do not fit into any of the most common family types).

--Professional status of parents: cases of unemployed parents or cases where at least one of them was unemployed and the other stayed at home performing household chores were included, as well as those situations in which the student only had a single parent who was unemployed or stayed at home performing household chores.

--Educational level of parents: cases in which none of the parents had completed studies (or the person with whom the student lived in the cases of a single parent) were included.

--Average grade: all students with an average grade inferior to 5 were included.

--Family satisfaction: all cases of students who were little or no satisfied with their family life (presenting values of 1 or 2 out of a maximum value of 5) were included.

Once the cases that met at least one of the criteria were selected, we obtained a population of 785 individuals at potential risk of vulnerability (29.1% of the total sample).

Sports leisure (among the three most important leisure activities): participants were asked to indicate their most important leisure activity of a list of 49 possibilities. These activities were grouped into nine categories: television and radio, digital leisure, sports and physical activities, tourism and hiking, cultural activities, parties / celebrations, games (other than computer games), associations and volunteering and other activities. Based on the results of these three variables, the variable sports leisure is created with the following categories: none, one activity, two activities and three activities (depending on the number of times that a sport and physical activity has been pointed out as one of the three most important leisure activities).

Perceived benefits: Young people indicated the main benefits obtained when they practiced their most significant leisure activities, namely: fitness improvement, fun, learning-creation, skills development and socialization. Using a 5-point Likert-type scale, they valued the level of agreement on the existence of these five benefits. In cases where youth performed more than one sports leisure activity, the arithmetic mean was calculated for each benefit. For example, regarding the improvement of physical fitness, if a student rated one activity with 4 and another with 2, his or her overall sports leisure experience concerning this specific benefit was rated with 3.

Organization of practice: the survey specified whether they performed the activities freely (independent practice), in an organized way or both. In the case of a student performing more than one sports leisure activity, the variable was recoded according to the organizational modalities of the different activities. This way, for example, if a student practiced a sport freely and another one in an organized practice, the final way to describe the organization of the sports leisure was both (organizational types).

3.3. Procedure

Two researchers went to each school to implement the questionnaires in classrooms. Young students participated in the research anonymously and voluntarily, with parental consent and authorization from the management teams of each center, being appropriately informed of the objectives of the research. Field work was carried out during the academic year 2015-2016.

3.4. Data analysis

A descriptive and inferential analysis was performed. For the descriptions of participation in sports leisure, organization and perceived benefits, frequency analysis and measures of central tendency were used. The Mann-Whitney U test was used to value the effect of the vulnerability factor on variables related to the benefits of sports leisure. The same test was made with the variables sports leisure and practice organization through Pearson's chi-squared test.

For the statistical treatment of the data, SPSS 22.0 software was used. As in most investigations using this design, it is not possible to establish causal relationships between dependent and independent variables.

4. Results

4.1. Sports leisure and vulnerability

As shown below, Figure 1, more than half of young people in Spain list some kind of sportive physical activity among their three main leisure activities. In the list of 9 means of entertainment studied (electronics, culture, sports, celebrations, etc.), sports leisure is by far the activity most practiced activity. Despite that, almost 45% of participants do not practice any sportive physical activity during their free time.

Next, we highlight the differences between vulnerable and non-vulnerable young people regarding the practice of sports leisure activities. People at risk of vulnerability have less active leisure habits than their peers. They tend to choose sports leisure among their three main leisure activities to a lesser extent, unlike non-vulnerable young people (Chi-square = 24.428, p<.01). Figure 2 studies the difference between both groups of people regarding their leisure preferences. The analysis of adjusted standardized residuals indicates that the greatest differences between both groups emerge in the categories any sportive activity and one sportive activity.

Vulnerable youth tend not to practice any sportive activity in their free time to a greater extent than their peers, whereas the opposite happens in the category one activity.

With regard to young people presenting 2 or 3 sportive activities among their top three favorite leisure activities, we find a similar behavior in both groups. It seems that sports leisure is the main reference for a minority of young people--vulnerable and non-vulnerable--(8% of the sample and 14.5% of those who practice some sportive leisure activity) whose leisure interests are mainly or exclusively sportive.

4.2. Sports leisure organization and vulnerability

In the following analysis we will exclusively focus on the part of the sample who actually practices sportive physical activities in their free time (55.1%, 1486 youngsters). Young people practice sports leisure activities mainly in an organized way in clubs, associations, etc. (42.6%). The second option is to practice it autonomously (34%) and, finally, 23.4% combines both. The variable vulnerability makes a big difference in the organization of sports leisure activities (Chi-square = 11.135, p < .01). Vulnerable young people have a greater tendency towards autonomous sport practice than non-vulnerable people, who clearly prefer to practice sports in an organized manner (figure 3). The analysis of adjusted standardized residuals indicates that the greatest differences between both groups of people are found in categories independent practice and organized practice. Behavior in category both is almost identical in both groups.

The profile of sportive practice in vulnerable young people tends to be more individual and less structured, in contrast with the profile of non-vulnerable youth. In the next subsection, we will study whether there is a relationship between the vulnerability and the acquisition of benefits entailed by sportive practice.

4.3. Sports leisure benefits

Regarding the acquisition of benefits through sports leisure practices we can point out satisfaction and an improvement of physical fitness. The relational dimension is also present among young people (Table 2).

Comparing the acquisition of benefits from sports leisure in potentially vulnerable youth and non-vulnerable youth, it is highlighted that almost in every case (except for creativity) potentially vulnerable young people present lower scores than non-vulnerable people. In the cases of physical fitness, satisfaction and socialization, the differences are statistically significant (Table3).

Therefore, young people at risk of vulnerability not only practice sports to a lesser extent than non-vulnerable people, but also perceive fewer benefits from these practices.

5. Discussion and conclusions

Regarding our first target, which was to represent leisure sports habits in groups of young people at risk of vulnerability and non-vulnerable youth, the findings confirm the data provided by the Sports Statistics Yearbook (Ministerio de Educacion, Cultura y Deporte, 2015) which reflects that, in the age range from 15 to 24 years old, 40% of the most vulnerable individuals claim to practice sportive physical activity. This information also agrees with the results obtained in the study by Garcia-Castilla, De-Juanas and Lopez-Noguero (2016), carried out with a similar sample. The description of the leisure sports habits of potentially vulnerable youth has also demonstrated that this group tends not to practice sports activities during leisure time to a larger extent, compared with individuals which are not vulnerable. To this respect, the results of the UNICEF report (2010) about well-being in rich countries in the world are confirmed. According to this study, Spain is considered one of the most unequal countries in the world in terms of vigorous physical exercise activities. This report highlights that the level of practice of disadvantaged students aged 11, 13 and 15 is well below national average. In this way, regarding "vigorous physical exercise activities, the Netherlands present the lowest inequality, closely followed by Switzerland and Norway. The highest levels of inequality in the bottom end of the scale correspond to France, Italy and Spain" (UNICEF 2010, p.15). The Survey of Sporting Habits in Spain 2010, drawn up by the National Sports Council (CSD), points in that direction as well. Survey data indicate that young people aged 15 or more with no schooling or a lower socioeconomic status express a reduced interest in sports. This situation has negative implications in vulnerable young people's health, and not only at the present time, but also as a prospect of less active leisure habits in later life stages. Furthermore, if we take into consideration that these results propose the presence of sport practices in family background as an influence over the actual sport practice of individuals aged 15 or more, then young people are predisposed towards the replication of the parental model in the practice of sports leisure. Nonetheless, the incidence of this contextual and family factor in leisure sports in vulnerable young people must be further explored.

Likewise, in line with our first goal, the outcomes consider the existence of a group with great affinity for sport practices as leisure activities (people selecting two or three sporting activities among their three main entertainment preferences), group that is left out of the relation between the existence of vulnerability and sport practices. In this particular case, the behavior of individuals has been very similar regardless of their situation of vulnerability, to a point where they are considered as a homogeneous group. In this way, socioeducational interventions designed to promote practices of sports leisure among vulnerable young people should focus specifically in individuals showing a moderate interest in sports leisure (those who do not practice sport activities in their free time) since they are clearly the group displaying a greater risk of acquiring passive activities in order to fill their free time.

Concerning our second target, related to the analysis of preferences about the type of organization in sports leisure of potentially vulnerable young people as well as non-vulnerable individuals, recent studies observed a general increase of the non-organized practices in the whole youth population (Consejo Superior de Deportes, 2010; Ahedo & Macua, 2016). This trend is even sharper in the vulnerable young people segment: in our research this group is characterized by weak structure and less social engagement, given that they choose to practice sport individually. In this respect, we agree with Lazcano-Quintana and Caballo-Villar (2016) when they point out that signing up for organized sport activities involve a higher level of social commitment and influence the continuity of the practice. All of this confirms the first hypothesis in this research, since vulnerable young people participate less in sports, and those who actually practice it tend to do it on their own. This fact reflects a tendency towards a weaker relation with active leisure of this specific collective of young people. From a broader perspective, less structured practices and the lack of a sense of belonging to a group are determining factors for a higher risk of giving up sports practice in the short or medium term. In any case, there is a need for further investigation on the reasons why potentially vulnerable young people tend to carry out non-organized activities whereas the rest of young individuals do not. Particularly, it is worth examining the background variables which might be affecting the decision of practicing sports autonomously and their effects in this community.

With reference to our third aim, focused on exploring the perception of benefits from sports leisure in vulnerable young people and non-vulnerable young people, there is a trend that displays fewer benefits from sports leisure for potentially young people than for the rest of young individuals, and mainly when we talk about the three most valued benefits at these ages. Therefore, our second hypothesis is confirmed: potentially vulnerable young people enjoy less, enhance to a lesser extent their physical fitness and do not relate with their peers through sports leisure experiences. The result of this perception has a negative impact on the continuity of sports practice, since those individuals who do not achieve benefit from an activity tend to quit easily. This would ruin the adherence of this group to sports practice and would contribute to promote social degradation, in which many of these young individuals are suffering from, because they would show interest in less healthy forms of leisure (OMS, 2013), not forgetting that it implies the cessation of other benefits granted by sports leisure, especially the socializing potential, which promotes the development of abilities that can be transferred to all walks of life (Ramos, Ponce de Leon, & Sanz, 2010).

On the other side, the group of vulnerable young people shows a similar interest in the enhancement of abilities through sport and in its socializing dimension. Non-vulnerable young people for their part, even though they are also interested in the development of their abilities, consider that sport enables to a greater extent the possibilities to relate to others. This data may be suggesting a practical use of sports for vulnerable groups instead of a social use. This interpretation should be treated with caution since the differences are not great; however, we can indicate a tendency to a lesser importance of the social dimension in sports leisure in vulnerable young people, which is consistent with their lower participation in organized activities.

DOI: 10.7179/PSRI_2018.31.04


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(1) Although the areas are a total of 10 (Northeast, East, South, Centre, Northwest, North, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Barcelona city and Madrid city), we decided to reduce them in order to facilitate field work and the effectiveness of the model, including Canarias in South area, Barcelona within the frame of Northeast area and Madrid in Centre.


Raul Fraguela Vale. Universidad de A Coruna. Facultad de Ciencias de la Educacion. Campus de Elvina, s/n. 15071 A Coruna. Telf.: 881014619. E-mail:

Angel de-Juanas Oliva. Facultad de Educacion UNED. Dpto. Teoria de la Educacion y Pedagogia Social. C/Juan del Rosal 14. 28040. Madrid. Telf.: 91 398 69 79. E-mail:

Ricardo Franco Lima: Escola Superior de Desporto e Lazer--IPVC. Complexo Desportivo e de Lazer Comendador Rui Solheiro, Monte de Prado, 4960-320 Melgaco--Portugal. www.esdl.ipvc. pt--E-mail:


Raul Fraguela Vale. Licenciado y Doctor en Educacion Fisica por la Universidad de A Coruna. Titular de Escuela Universitaria en el area de Expresion Corporal de la Universidad de A Coruna. Sus principales lineas de investigacion son: educacion para el ocio y Educacion Fisica, tiempos educativos y sociales, actividad fisica y salud en la infancia, politicas deportivas a nivel local y el juego en la infancia. Pertenece a los equipos de investigacion SEPA (USC) y Politica Educativa, Historia y Sociedad (UDC).

Angel de-Juanas Oliva. Profesor Contratado Doctor en la Universidad Nacional de Educacion a Distancia (UNED). Doctor en Ciencias de la Educacion (UCM) y licenciado en Psicopedagogia. Coordinador del Master en Intervencion Educativa en Contextos Sociales de la UNED. Miembro del grupo de investigacion de Intervencion Socioeducativa. Finalmente, es editor del Area de Ensenanza de la Educacion Fisica de la revista RICYDE.

Ricardo Franco Lima. Doutorado em Ciencias da Educacao pela Universidade de Tras-os-Montes e Alto-Douro (2015). Professor de Ensino Superior desde 2010 no Instituto Universitario da Maia e no Instituto Politecnico de Viana do Castelo--Escola Superior de Educacao e Escola Superior de Desporto e Lazer. Atualmente Coordenador da Licenciatura em Desporto e Lazer na Escola Superior de Desporto e Lazer de Melgaco, tendo como areas de investigacao a Pedagogia e Didatica do Desporto e o Treino Desportivo (Voleibol).


* Universidade da Coruna, ** UNED, *** Instituto Politecnico de Viana do Castelo

Received date: 27.VII.2017

Reviewed date: 18.IX.2017

Accepted date: 26.IX.2017

CORRESPONDING AUTHOR'S ADDRESS: Raul Fraguela Vale. Universidad de A Coruna. Facultad de Ciencias de la Educacion. Campus de Elvina, s/n. 15071 A Coruna. Telf.: 881014619. E-mail:

FUNDS: The present study results from the following research projects: <<De los tiempos educativos a los tiempos sociales: la construccion cotidiana de la condicion juvenil en una sociedad de redes. Problematicas especificas y alternativas pedagogicosociales>> (Coordinated Project EDU 2012-39080-C07-00) and subprojects: <<De los tiempos educativos a los tiempos sociales: la construccion cotidiana de la condicion juvenil en una sociedad de redes: Problematicas especificas y alternativas pedagogicosociales>> (EDU 2012-39080-C07-01) and <<De los tiempos educativos a los tiempos sociales: Ocio, formacion y empleo de los jovenes en dificultad social>> (EDU 2012-39080-C07-07), confinanced within the framework of the National Plan R&D&I assisted by the Minister of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF, 2007-2013). <<Educar el ocio: realidades y perspectivas en clave intergeneracional, integral e Inclusiva en una sociedad de redes>> (Project EDU 2015-65638-C6-1-R), funded within the framework of the National Plan R&D&I, assisted by the Minister of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness.
Table 1: Identification data of the sample

Age [bar.X]     Gender(%)    Vulnerability     Type of centre (%)
(DT)                              (%)

19.15 (1.57)   Boy (51.3)    Yes (29.1)       Public school (78.6)
               Girl (48.7)   No (70.9)        Secular private
                                              school (4.5)
                                              Religious private
                                              school (16.9)

Age [bar.X]      Area (1) (%)

19.15 (1.57)   Northwest (17.6)
               East (12.8)
               South (28.4)
               Centre (22)
               Northeast (11.2)
               North (8)

Source: Own elaboration.

Table 2: Benefits from sports leisure

Benefits (valores 1-5)   [bar.X] (DT)

Physical fitness         4.57 (.74)
Satisfaction             4.65 (.67)
Creativity               3.55 (1.27)
Skills                   4.04 (1.18)
Socialization            4.12 (1.17)

Source: Own elaboration.

Table 3: Benefits from sports leisure and vulnerability.
Mann-Whitney U test.

                   N             Vulnerable vs Non-           Z
                                    [bar.X] (DT)

Physical fitness   1330       4.47 (.83) vs 4.61 (.70)    -2.375 *

Satisfaction       1317       4.56 (.76) vs 4.68(.64)     -2.466 *

Creativity         1288      3.59 (1.26) vs 3.54(1.27)      .655

Skills             1300      3.99 (1.17) vs 4.05 (1.18)    -1.081

Socialization      1297       3.99(1.18) vs4.16(1.16)     -2.732 **

* p < .05, ** p < .0,01

SOURCE: Own elaboration.

Figure 1. Sports leisure in young people in Spain

Any sportive activity      44.9
One sportive activity      47.1
Two sportive activity       6.5
Three sportive activity     1.3

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Figure 2. Sports leisure activities and vulnerability

               Vulnerable      Non-vulnerable
               young people    young people

No activity      50.7              42.4
1 activity       39.9              50.1
2 activities      7.4               6.2
3 activities      2                 1.3

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Figure 3. Sports leisure organization and

                         Vulnerable      Non-vulnerable
                         young people    young people

Independent practice       40.9             31.6
Organized practice         35.8             44.9
Both                       23.3             23.5

Note: Table made from bar graph.
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Title Annotation:texto en ingles
Author:Vale, Raul Fraguela; Oliva, Angel De-Juanas; Lima, Ricardo Franco
Publication:Pedagogia Social
Article Type:Ensayo
Date:Jan 1, 2018

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