Health, Fitness and Physical Education Glossary


The contents of this glossary have been restricted mainly to the more general terminology of PE. If there are any terms which you are not sure of, and would like a definition of, or if you do not find some of these definitions helpful, then please email us at



The rate of change of velocity over time (where velocity is the rate of change of position with respect to direction).


The stage of maturing into an adult, which involves more than sexual maturity.


Rhythmic, steady exercise which uses oxygen to oxidise glucose, fats, and proteins to release energy for the working muscles.


The ability to change the position of your body and/or its parts quickly and accurately.

Alactic Anaerobic Phosphagen system or process

The fastest source of energy in the body, using ATP and CP. Used in explosive strength, and speed activities.


Participants who are not directly paid for performing. They take part for enjoyment and satisfaction, and not to make money.

Anabolic Steroids

Drugs based on the male hormone testosterone, which stimulate the building of more muscle tissue


The internal structure of the body.

Antagonistic (pairs of muscles)

Most muscles in the body are arranged in opposing pairs. When one contracts, the other relaxes and is stretched, and vice versa. This arrangement is necessary as muscles can only contract (get shorter) when stimulated by motor nerves, they cannot restretch themselves.


Worry about what might happen in a situation. (See also State Anxiety and Trait Anxiety).

Assessment of physical activities
Associative Stage of learning

The second stage of learning. Patterns of coordination are learnt, motor programmes begin to be laid down in the brain.

ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate)

The substance through which all energy to be used in the body is channelled . Once used to supply energy to some process, eg. muscle contraction, it must be reformed using energy from other sources, eg. the oxidation of glucose.

ATP => ADP + P + energy to be used by the body / ADP + P + energy => ATP from the oxidation of glucose / Autonomous Stage of learning

The third stage of learning. The movement has been learned, and the performer has time to think about tactics, strategies, style, expression, and the fine tuning of skills.



Maintaining the equilibrium of the body, either without movement (static balance) or during movement (dynamic balance).

Base of Support

The base of support involves the relationship between you and the surface you are performing on. It includes the points of contact you have with the surface you are performing on.

Body Composition

The relative proportions of fat and lean (non-fat) body mass.



Energy rich substances, eg. starch, found in foods like bread, potatoes, pasta, etc. Starch is digested to glucose which is absorbed by the body.

Cardiac Output

The amount of blood pumped out by the heart per minute.

Cardiac = Stroke x Heart

Output Volume Rate

Centre of Gravity (of the body)

The point about which your body weight is evenly distributed in any position.

Circuit Training

Training that uses a circuit of exercises around a number of different work stations. Each circuit lasting about 20 minutes.

Closed Skills

These are performed in predictable and stable conditions. The performer tries to repeat the movement the same way each time, eg. a free shot in basketball.

Cognitive Stage of learning

The first stage of learning. Beginners learn to understand what they have to do.


The process of organising an event or performance along business lines.

Community Physical Recreation

An attempt to provide individuals, and groups with access and opportunities in a range of physical recreational activities, at a local neighbourhood level. The idea of ‘community’ brings a more ‘human’ feeling to such provision.

Compulsory Competitive Tendering – CCT

Forcing Local Authority leisure centres etc. to allow various groups to bid for contracts to supply various services.

Concentric (muscle action)

Muscles shorten as they contract. When they shorten normally, eg. in a biceps curl, it is also known as an isotonic contraction. When stopped from shortening very much by an immovable resistance, it is also known as an isometric contraction.


The ability to control, and put together (integrate) movements made by different parts of the body.


A sudden, uncontrollable, painful contraction of a muscle or a group of muscles, that may last for only seconds, or for hours at a lower intensity. Of unknown cause, but loss of salts can be a cause. Treated by stretching and massage.

Creatine Phosphate (CP)

An energy reserve in the muscles that is used to regenerate ATP after it has been used in muscle contractions. ADP + CP => ATP + C


Decision Making

This involves you in making a decision about what action to perform, after you have been through the process of giving meaning to information, and comparing the information received with your memories.


This is the act of distinguishing between people on the grounds of sex, race, religion. etc. and dealing differently with them because of these perceived differences.

Distributed Practice

Practise of an activity with rest breaks in the practice session.


The taking or mis-use of substances, or participation in doping methods, prohibited by the IOC and by the International Sports Federations. In addition, assisting or inciting others to contravene doping regulations is also a doping offence.

Dual Use

The sharing of school and other educational facilities with users who are not pupils, students, or staff.


Eccentric (muscle action)

When a muscle is trying to contract whilst actually being lengthened by stretching, eg. the thigh muscles while running down hill.

Endocrine Glands

Glands without ducts (tubes) which produce hormones, and pass them direct into the bloodstream, eg. pituitary, thyroid, and adrenal glands.


Stamina, the ability to keep going for long periods. Includes cardiovascular-respiratory (heart-breathing) endurance, and muscular endurance.


Chemicals (proteins) produced by living organisms, which act as catalysts, ie. they speed up the rate of chemical reactions in the body, without themselves being used up in the reaction.


Achieving standards above average, nationally set performance targets encourage performers to strive for excellence.


Getting rid of poisonous waste products produced by the body, eg. carbon dioxide (by breathing out), and urea in the urine from the kidneys.


Involves exertion of the body. It is important in maintaining general health, and includes cardiovascular-respiratory (heart-breathing) endurance, muscular endurance, strength, mobility and flexibility, and body composition. (See also Physical fitness).

Extrinsic Feedback

This is information given to the performer from an outside source, eg. teacher/ coach/ video/ spectator etc. It can be in the form of Knowledge of Results, and/or Knowledge of Performance. These are always external in origin. It is also called Supplementary Feedback and Augmented Feedback.


A personality factor (trait) which involves sociability, talkativeness, and self assurance.



‘Speed play’, running as you please, fast and slow, over different terrains.


Energy rich substances, eg. butter, oils, etc.


Information you receive about your actions, in the form of Knowledge of Results and Knowledge of Performance. (See also Extrinsic Feedback and Intrinsic Feedback).

Fine Motor Skills

Involve movements using small groups of muscles in delicate actions, eg. wrist action in table tennis.

First Aid

This is the treatment given by the first person to arrive on the scene of an accident. It is better if the first aider is properly trained.


The range of movement at a joint allowed by the muscles (length & elasticity) that surround it.


Force can be described as a ‘pull’ or a ‘push’.



Which sex a person is, eg. male or female.

Goal setting

Process of setting performance targets or goals, and organising ways of achieving these goals. Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Time phased, Exciting, and Recorded – SMARTER.


Standards of performance to be aimed for. Can be based on your own performance, eg. achieving a personal best – Performance Based Goals; or on your performance compared to others, eg. position in a race – Outcome Goals.

Gross Motor Skills

These are skills which involve large groups of muscles, eg. discus throwers.



A state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not only the absence of disease or infirmity.


Anti-social, threatening, and rowdy behaviour


A chemical ‘messenger’ produced by an endocrine gland. Very small amounts have powerful effects on the body, eg. adrenaline ‘pumps the body up’ for activity.


Information Processing

A model of the way in which a skill is learnt. It tries to explain what goes on when you turn information you receive into movements.

Isometric Muscle Action

Occurs when a muscle starts to contract and shorten, but is then stopped by an immovable resistance, eg. trying to lift a weight that is too heavy for you to move.

Isotonic Muscle Action

Normal muscle action, when the muscle shortens as it produces movement, eg. a biceps curl.

Interference with learning

When established skills which have already been learnt, interfere with the learning of new skills, and new skills interfere with existing skills. For example a tennis player might find it difficult to learn badminton, and that in trying to learn it, their tennis gets worse.

Interval Training

Training with alternating work intervals and rest intervals, eg. 6 x 200m with 60 seconds rest between each 200m run.

Intrinsic Feedback

This is information you give to yourself from your actions or from the activity. It can be in the form of Knowledge of Results (you see/hear it), and/or Knowledge of Performance (you feel it).


A personality dimension, where the person is withdrawn, anxious, and insecure.

Inverted U Theory

Motivation (arousal) increases to an optimum point, at which performance is at its best, past which control and quality of performance decreases through trying too hard and becoming anxious.

Involuntary Muscle

Muscle that you cannot control by your conscious decisions.


Joint Provision

The providing of new facilities for the shared use of different groups, eg. school, and public.


A measure of energy. 4.2 joules = 1 calorie.


Knowledge of Performance (KP)

Is a type of feedback in which a performer receives information about the quality of their performance in terms of movement, style, etc. When given by a coach/video it is extrinsic. When felt by the performer it is intrinsic.

Knowledge of Results (KR)

Is a type of feedback in which a performer receives information about the results of their actions. When given by a coach/video it is extrinsic. When seen/heard directly by the performer it is intrinsic.


Lactic Acid

An acid produced by muscles working powerfully without enough oxygen (anaerobically). The increased acidity stimulates faster breathing, and causes muscle pain.

Lactic Anaerobic System

The way in which energy is released from glycogen (glucose) without using oxygen (anaerobic), and which results in the production of lactic acid in the muscles.

Learning Curve

A graphical depiction of the progress of learning (or lack of it).


That time not spent working, eating, and sleeping, which is available for your own recreation.


A structure with a pivot point about which an effort moves a load. There are three types of lever according to the different positions of the effort, load, and pivot.

Limited Channel Capacity

The information processing model that emphasises that the brain can only deal with a limited amount of information at once. You could become confused and overloaded by too much information.

Local Provision

Local facilities for sport, provided by public, private, and voluntary organisations.

Long Term Memory

A more permanent memory store. When information is practised and coded, it passes from the short term memory into the long term memory, from where it can be retrieved (recalled) using the coded memory keys.


Manual/Mechanical Guidance

Physical help in learning what to do.

Massed Practice

Practise of an activity without any rest breaks in the practice session.

Mechanical disadvantage

When the arrangement of the pivot, effort, and load, of a lever system results in the effort having to be greater than the load.


A term used to describe local and national newspapers, magazines, radio, and television, which are all involved in reporting and broadcasting activities and events, and in interviewing the performers.


A storage and retrieval (finding) system.

Mental Practice

Imagining the successful performance of an activity.

Mentalism of the knee


Movement and the change of position, including the idea of speed.

MotivationReflects the commitment and determination of a performer.
MotivationReflects the commitment and determination of a performer. It is a general level of arousal (intensity) to action. It involves a sense of purpose, direction, and sustainment. Intrinsic motivation is when the source of motivation comes from the individual (enjoyment, satisfaction), and extrinsic motivation is when the source of motivation comes from a source other than yourself (prizes, money, etc.).

Motor Programmes
Patterns of muscle commands recorded in the central nervous system which can be used quickly when needed.

Motor (movement) Skill

There isn’t a single, agreed definition of a motor skill. We could say that motor skill is, ‘the learned ability to perform in a physical activity efficiently, successfully, and consistently’.

Movement Time

The time it takes to actually move as a result of the brain sending nerve impulses to the muscles. Part of the response time.


National Curriculum

Programmes of study and attainment targets laid down by the Government, stating what pupils must study from the time they enter primary school, to when they take GCSE in year 11. It is divided into 4 Key Stages, and Maths, English, Science are the core subjects.


A personality factor (trait) which involves sensitivity, anxiety and insecurity.

Newton’s Third Law

To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.


Olympic Ideal

The Olympic Ideal is expressed in the idea of Olympism, which is an outlook on life which includes the enjoyment of taking part, trying hard, fair play, respect for the rules, and the pursuit of excellence. The Olympic movement exists to promote these ideals.

Open Skill

These are performed in situations which are continually changing so that the performer has to adapt the skill to the changing situation, eg. tackling in football.

Overload of training
(see Progressive Loading)

Overloading of information

Receiving too much information at once, causing confusion. A part of information Processing Theory.

Oxygen Debt

The amount of oxygen taken up after intense exercise has stopped. It is needed to oxidise the lactic acid that was produced by the release of energy from glucose without oxygen (anaerobically) during the intense activity. See also Oxygen deficit.

Oxygen Deficit

The amount of oxygen a performer is short of during intense exercise in which they are getting energy from glucose without oxygen (anaerobically). (See also Oxygen debt).



(See Physical Education).

Parts Learning

Breaking a skill down to its basic parts, which are then learnt one at a time, before putting them altogether in the complete skill. If you join each part together as they are learned, it is called progressive parts (stages).


The taking part in physical activities.


To understand (give meaning to) what has been seen, heard, and felt. The first step in interpreting information. Acts as a filter, and helps you separate out important information from the less important.


A person’s character and temperament. A complex series of factors, unique to the individual.

Phosphagen System

See ‘Alactic anaerobic phosphagen system’.

Physical Education – P.E.

A foundation subject in the National Curriculum. It involves people in learning and taking part in physical activities. It could help develop a more positive attitude towards yourself, and to life. It is, for many people, the same as playing games, taking part in many different physical activities, or keeping fit. It is through these types of activities at school that learning happens, and Physical Education is taught. Physical Education focuses on bodily movement, and involves the development of enjoyment, understanding, co-ordination, and control. The overall aims are to develop: physical skills and abilities; knowledge and understanding; positive attitudes to activity and health; social awareness.

Physical Fitness

The capacity to perform physical activity with relative success and enjoyment without undue discomfort during or after. This normally involves a measure of the relative efficiency of the heart, blood vessels, lungs and muscles, in carrying out movements. In hard physical activity the enjoyment involves knowing that you have achieved your aims.

Physical Recreation

This is entertaining oneself, or relaxing, in leisure time, through physical activity.


The study of how the body works.


The physical build of the body.

Planning (of training)

The organising of a training programme. Account should be taken of frequency, intensity, time (duration), and type of exercise – F.I.T.T.


A period in learning when no progress appears to be made.


Politics involves the principles, ideas, and government concerned with the practical and theoretical aspects of social organisation.


The way all the parts of the body are aligned together.


The rate at which work is done: Power = work = force x distance time time


Participants who are paid for performing. They earn their living from the activity.

Progressive Loading (Overload of training)

Increasing the training effort in carefully controlled stages – not actually overloading in the sense of overstraining the body and its systems, which could lead to injury.


Substances which build and repair the body, especially muscle. Protein containing foods must be eaten every day, eg. meat, eggs, cheese, nuts, soya beans etc.


The beginning of the development of sexual maturity.


The rhythmic beat of the blood being pumped by the heart through the arteries, which are swollen in diameter when the heart contracts, and recoil back to normal when the heart relaxes. Can be felt at the wrist and at the side of the neck.



Racist Behaviour

This is behaviour that develops from the idea of the superiority of one race (a division of humankind whose members share certain characteristics) over another. This usually involves behaviour that is abusive, often violent, and discriminatory.

Reaction Time

The time it takes for the brain to receive information, to decide what to do, and to send impulses to the muscles. Part of the response time.

Recovery Position

The position to place an injured person into if possible, and if safe to do so.


A process of reducing tension, rigidity, anxiety, and intensity. Specific techniques can be developed, eg. Progressive Muscular Relaxation, the Quiet Place, Centring.

Response Time

The time it takes to respond to some stimulus, eg. the actions of people.

Response = Reaction + Movement Time

Where the reaction time is the time it takes the brain to receive information, to decide what to do, and to send impulses to the muscles; and the movement time is the time it takes to actually move.

Reversibility (of training)

Gains in fitness as result of training are not permanent, they are easily lost (reversed) if training stops.


The laws/regulations governing participation in a physical activity.



Being free from danger or harm. What you must always be!

Selective Attention

A process of focussing your mind (attention) on important information (actions, stimuli, etc.). A part of Information Processing theory.

Sensory Input

Information received from the senses, eg. sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, and feelings.

Short Term Memory

A temporary memory store, from which information is easily forgotten. Information that is considered significant is coded and practised, and passed on into Long Term Memory.


The classification of body types (physique) on the basis of basic skeletal structure, into endomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph.

Specificity (of training)

Different types of training improve different (specific) parts and systems of the body, eg. cycling will not help a swimmer improve their swimming.


The distance covered in a certain time.


The giving of money or other material goods to an activity, event, organisation, performance, or individual(s), by a sponsor, in return for which, the goods/services of the sponsor are publicised/advertised.


This term is used in many different ways. It could be described as ‘a type of physical activity which you choose to compete in fairly, and try to win.’ There have been many attempts to divide sport into different groups.

Stability (of personality)

A personality dimension involving calmness and a feeling of security.

Stability (of the body)

This involves the equilibrium or balance of the body on a base, it is increased if: the area of the base is wider or larger; the centre of gravity is lowered; the centre of gravity is brought nearer to the centre of the base.

State Anxiety

Anxiety which is caused by/related to a specific situation, eg. a rock face.


A pain in the chest/abdomen region associated with running. Of unknown cause, but possibly a result of the jarring action of running acting on the liver, which is suspended below the diaphragm on the right hand side.


The amount of force that is produced by muscles contracting. Includes static or isometric strength, where effort is made against an immovable resistance; and dynamic or isotonic strength where effort moves a resistance.


Exercise to improve flexibility. This can be passive, eg. limb being pushed to the limit of movement by a partner; active, eg. moving and holding your own stretch position; and ballistic, eg. swinging arms and/or legs.

Stroke Volume

The volume of blood pumped out by each contraction of the ventricles of the heart.

Supplementary Feedback

(See Extrinsic Feedback).



The basic patterns of movement which have to be developed in every activity.

Trace Decay (forgetting)

The fading away of a memory which has been learned but not practised or used.

Training (physical)

A process which is designed to improve physical capacity, fitness, skill, etc.

Transfer of Training (learning)

The influence of previously learned skills and activities on the learning of new ones. This appears to depend on the amount of similarity between the skills and activities, and may be helpful (positive) or harmful (negative).

Trait Anxiety

A personality factor (trait). The tendency to become anxious in almost all or any situation.



Variation (of training)

Training should be varied to prevent boredom occurring and injuries developing. Variation should always be safe.


The growth of new capillary networks in muscles working aerobically over long periods of time. It increases their potential blood supply, and therefore their oxygen supply during aerobic exercise. Similar changes as a result of aerobic training occur within the coronary arteries of the heart muscle.

Verbal Guidance

Telling a performer what to do to improve their performance.

Visual Guidance

Showing a performer how to improve their performance.

Voluntary Muscle

Muscle that can be controlled by your conscious decisions


Warm-down (cool down)

A warm-down brings the mind and the body back to a relaxed state. Helps to reduce the risk of injury.


A warm-up should involve a gradual increase in the heart rate and breathing rate, a slight rise in body temperature, and prepare the mind and the body for activity. Helps to reduce the risk of injur

Whole Learning

Learning a skill as a complete action, without breaking it down into its basic parts. Faulty parts can then be identified and attempts made to improve them. If the faulty part is isolated and practised, and the skill then performed as a whole again, this is called whole-part-whole learning.