Skip to content
Join Life Time
a man smiles while working out

Forget the notion that workouts are all work and no play, says research psychologist Kelly McGonigal, PhD, a Stanford University lecturer and author of The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage. There’s ample evidence from multiple studies that exercise — even in small doses — can boost your mood.

In fact, researchers have a not-so-technical name for it: the feel-better effect. “Human beings are hardwired to take pleasure in the activities, experiences, and mental states that help us survive,” McGonigal explains. “These instincts are buried in our DNA and spring to life in each of us, as fundamental to our survival as the abilities to breathe, digest food, and pump blood to our muscles.”

In her book, she offers research-backed ways to find joy in exercise.

1. Get outside.

Exercise in your backyard, at a park, or anywhere that gives you a dose of nature. Since we evolved outdoors, we’re forever connected to nature, McGonigal writes. “Being active outdoors can help us tap into the human capacity for mindfulness, as well as the transcendence of being connected to something bigger than ourselves.”

2. Groove with others.

Whether you work out with one friend or in a class, “human happiness flourishes in community,” she notes. “Throughout human history, movement — whether labor, ritual, or play — has helped us to connect, collaborate, and celebrate.”

3. Make it fun.

Find the joy in play, challenges, or competition. Tackling obstacles as a team brings out a different side of participants, she explains.

4. Move to music.

Listen to music and you almost can’t help but dance. “The brain seems to be hardwired to hear music as an invitation to move,” McGonigal writes.

For more from Psychologist Kelly McGonigal, PhD, and how a joyful approach to exercise can help people reach their fitness goals more easily, see “How Positive Emotions Supercharge the Effects of Exercise.”

This article originally appeared as “The Joyous Workout” in the November 2022 issue of Experience Life.

Michael Dregni

Michael Dregni is an Experience Life deputy editor.

Thoughts to share?

This Post Has 0 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More From Life Time

Studio, Cycle & Yoga Classes

Move and be moved together in innovative studio, cycle and yoga classes at Life Time, all designed to help build a healthier you.

Explore Classes at Life Time


More Like This

Back To Top