If ever there was a time to up your fitness game, the arrival of the new year and the new decade is it. But after the allure of the new gym membership wears off, our sedentary habits, more often than not, consume our promise of daily workouts. It doesn’t have to be this way, says health psychologist and author, Kelly McGonigal, PhD.
In her new book, The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage, the Stanford University lecturer offer new motivation to get moving that has less to do with how we look, or feeling duty-bound to exercise, and everything to do with how movement makes us feel. She shares with readers the often profound, yet lesser-known benefits of exercise that make it a worthy, life-long activity whether you’re young, old, fit or disabled.
“I want them to understand [exercise] in a different way than the usual conversation we always have about weight loss, preventing disease and making our bodies look a certain way,” McGonigal tells NPR.
Among its many life-altering rewards: the generation of hope, happiness, a sense of purpose, greater life satisfaction and rewarding connections with others.
“These benefits are seen throughout the lifespan,” she writes. “They apply to every socioeconomic strata and appear to be culturally universal.”
Support comes from
And they aren’t activity-specific and they don’t require you to be a super-athlete. Whether you run, swim, dance, bike, weight-lift, do yoga or team sports — it doesn’t matter, McGonigal says — moderate physical activity does far more than make us physically stronger and healthier.
Here are five of the ways movement can help you enjoy life.
1) Activate pleasure
During exercise, McGonigal explains, our brains release neurotransmitters — in particular dopamine and endocannabinoids — that can generate a