I’ve only recently learned about “joyful movement” and I wish I had known about it earlier. We all know that movement is good for our bodies — especially during quarantine — but the culture of owning a high-end gym membership, counting calories or your heartrate with an Apple Watch, and wearing luxury athleisure clothes to emphasize your dedication to fitness make it difficult to separate the health benefits of exercise from the social phenomenon that working out has become.
“Joyful movement” seeks to change that, however, by promoting any type of exercise that brings you happiness and feels good for you. We’re often so caught up in the aesthetics of exercise that we don’t take enough time to reflect and recognize what types of movement bring us genuine joy. Here are some ways to embrace this trend.
1. Think about what was fun as a kid.
As children, activity and movement brought us happiness. As we get older, new associations with exercise prevent us from embracing it, fully, in our daily lives. In quarantine, I’d encourage you to reflect on the activities that brought you joy as a child, which could be joining a basketball league or a soccer club, but it could also mean dancing your heart out to some of your favorite tunes, jumping on a trampoline, rollerblading, splashing in the pool, biking, taking a ride on a scooter, or simply walking and exploring the world around you.
These activities are not meant to be structured blocks of time that promise to burn 500 calories so you can feel less guilty about treating yourself to a donut.
These activities are not meant to be structured blocks of time that promise to burn 500 calories so you can feel less guilty about treating yourself to a donut. No, these movements are meant to simply be for you, to ground yourself in your body and all it can do for you. Even if you hate exercising, or are tired of following at-home YouTube videos, reconnecting to your Inner Child with activities that have historically brought a smile to your face can be a new way to move.
2. Add a bit of movement to your daily routines.
You can also practice “joyful movement” in your everyday routine, whether it’s through tasks like taking your dog out for a walk or parking a few blocks away from your local grocery store. We have been trained to think of exercise as an activity that we need to block out time for and commit to, with the appropriate clothing and gear, in order for it to genuinely be effective. But that formula often means there are various barriers to movement.
As such, “joyful movement” promotes adding small doses of exercise where you can get it, like adding a short walk from the car to your errands or even setting an alarm on your desk to get up and move for sixty seconds every hour. These small movements added to your routine can not only help you achieve a daily step goal, for instance. But more importantly, they can help with your mental clarity and drive, since breaks and movement are good for you.
3. Take a hike!
During quarantine, hiking has been popularized as a form of exercise, enabling people to get outdoors safely and securely in a pandemic. Connecting to nature through a hike is an easy way to move your body and reap the benefits of being outdoors, exercising, and seeing beautiful landscapes. “Joyful movement” is all about tuning into your body to see what it needs, so if that’s a day outside in nature, then hiking is a perfect way to achieve that.
4. Find a workout class you actually enjoy.
Now, we’re not saying that a spin class doesn’t count as “joyful movement” because it does—only if you genuinely love spinning, though! It’s often difficult to separate out what brings you joy from what we’ve been told should bring us joy, and many hardcore exercise classes can promote unhealthy habits by forcing students to look at a heart-rate monitor or calorie counter — reinforcing the idea of exercise as something negative. Moreover, the gym holds different associations for us all. But if these forms of movement bring you genuine happiness, then your workout class absolutely counts as a “joyful movement.” Under the narrative of “joyful movement,” though, a boxing class is no “better” than dancing in your room for a few minutes or taking the stairs in your office or rollerblading around your neighborhood. All of these forms of movement, if they make you happy, are equally joyful.
5. Listen to your body.
In particular, “joyful movement” emphasizes the need to be intuitive about what your body needs, even if that includes rest. With “joyful movement,” you shouldn’t feel upset about taking a rest day or trying to curb your calorie intake as a result of your movement. Joyful movement might help you burn calories, but that’s not really what it’s about. Instead, it’s about making you feel good and improving your health in a variety of other ways. Find something you love to do and nourish your body with that form of movement.
Keertana Anandraj is a recent college grad living in San Francisco. When she isn’t conducting international macroeconomic research at her day job, you can find her in the spin room or planning her next adventure.
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