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The ancient Greeks were the first to use the term athletes (athlos) to describe all persons who practiced the exercises of the palaestra and were physically healthy. In this first meaning of the word, an athlete was a person who had the opportunity to perfect his physical traits through proper exercise. All other persons were considered invalids (asthenes). According to Aristotle, an athlete had to be in good physical condition because he had to perform exceptionally well in his competitions.

Athletes are persons who participate in competitive sports and are trained to control their bodies. They can be professional or amateur. Professional athletes compete at the highest level and earn money for their participation. Amateur athletes compete at lower levels and do not usually earn money for their participation.

The practice of competitive sports has gained much popularity since the first Olympic Games in 776 BC. They are used as a way to improve physical condition and increase physical fitness, as well as a way to spend free time. Competitive sports have also become a major industry because of their popularity, and many athletes gain financial benefits through the sale of their images (jerseys, posters, magazines, etc.) or through sponsorships.