Exercise Your Joy

Posted Sep 29, 2020

Physical activity and exercise are touted as the modern elixir for preventing chronic disease, enhancing well-being and improving both health and lifespan. However, many Americans simply dread daily activity and may currently be facing additional barriers due to access, time and public health concerns. 

Exercise can enhance personal wellness and increase the sense of connection with a community, which is essential in light of the increased prevalence of mental health concerns, particularly amongst young adults in recent months (CDC, August 2020). Dr. Kelly McGonigal, a world-renowned health psychologist and revolutionary figure in positive psychology and stress management discusses how “physical exercise can be a powerful antidote to the modern epidemics of depression, anxiety, and loneliness.”

In The Joy of Movement, McGonigal highlights the importance of understanding the pleasure, connectedness and purpose of community activity as a result of the neuroscience of exercise. Traditionally, feelings of euphoria often touted as the “runner’s high” have been used as motivation for stretching your limits and pounding the pavement alone. McGonigal argues that the feeling she coins as a “persistence high” is actually an evolutionary adaptation to encourage humans to feel rewarded when completing an essential but challenging task together, using modern hunter gatherer people groups as an example. 

Scavenging for food is not the motivation to exert ourselves in modern culture, but moving for the sake of living, curtailing diseases of lifestyle and feeling joy afterwards with others is still foundational to our overall health and wellness. As allied health professionals, we can use our individual experiences of movement to enhance the collective joy of the community.  The American College of Sports Medicine is currently offering a free online preparatory course for health minded individuals who want to become certified Group Exercise Instructors (See more details).  Group exercise is an excellent way to increase fitness, social support and create a wider client base and reach in community, workplace or university settings.

Whether you formally teach a fitness class, work with a group of physical therapy patients, or are a weekend warrior, remember the importance of social connection and find joy in movement daily.

MSAH Graduate Director Erica Van Dop