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Over the past years, physical culture has been considered for its role in promoting health and constructing identity in Iran. Physical education, recreation, and elite sports are identified as the main examples of physical culture by which these objectives could be achieved. Most studies on physical recreation are aimed at public health issues. After presenting a review of the relevant literature, a wide and diverse range of driving forces are categorized in social, technological, economic, environmental, political, value/cultural, and ‘sport/sport sciences’ domains, which may all influence Iranians’ participation in leisure-time physical activities. Following these findings in another study, the economic and technological drivers are specified as the most important uncertainties contributing to developing possible scenarios of participation in health-oriented activities. In addition to public health promotion, however, there is also evidence indicating that physical recreation (leisure-time physical activities) and indigenous sports can also result in identity construction purposes.

Further the capacity of elite sports to contribute to participation in leisure-time physical activities in Iran is examined. Since the relevant literature did not strongly support this finding, it was scrutinized in a separate research on Iran’s national soccer team in the 2018 FIFA World and the 2019 Asian Cups. The results indicated that elite sport successes can, indeed, lead to identity construction, which might have temporarily influenced Iranians’ participation. In this paper, we question if elite sport can also propel people to engage in leisure-time physical activity (physical recreation) programs. Since the same and even more consistent benefits of physical culture could be obtained from participation compared to competition, it is suggested to relevant decision-makers to also consider the role of physical recreation and indigenous sports for the promotion of health and identity construction.

Keywords: physical culture; Iran; physical recreation; elite sport; identity; health

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