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How To Find ‘Joyful Movement’ in Every Day

This simple phrase encourages you to enjoy your workouts, not dread them

Diverse group of friends on a hike

Let’s be honest: When it comes to working out, many examples we see are pretty intense. Whether it’s a commercial featuring a sweaty cyclist or a social media ad for an intense boot camp class, messaging around working out seems to celebrate the greatest efforts.

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To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with these types of exercise routines. But what if that’s simply not you? What if you’re struggling to find the joy in exercise, let alone sticking to a constant routine?

That’s where the idea of “joyful movement” comes in. The phrase, which has gained traction on social media, means exactly what you might think: Having fun with how you exercise, while still reaping the benefits.

Exercise physiologist Katie Lawton, MEd, explains how to embrace joyful movement and find a more balanced approach to an exercise routine.

What is joyful movement?

Joyful movement was born in response to the more intense workout routines and challenges that have sprung up in recent years, like the 75 Hard Challenge or the 12-3-30 workout. But instead of being a specific routine, joyful movement is more of a mindset that encourages you to find exercise in fun, unlikely places.

If you’re already finding joy in challenging, high-energy workouts, that’s great! But if that’s not you, you’re not alone. Intense workouts simply don’t work for everyone’s routine, personality or health condition. That’s why many different alternative exercise routines exist to help fit everyone’s needs. Joyful movement goes hand in hand with that idea, but it takes it a step further.

This exercise philosophy is all about engaging in activities that align with a hobby, interest or just something fun for you to do. Some examples include:

  • Roller skating.
  • Dancing.
  • Hiking with friends.
  • Joining a baseball or dodgeball league.
  • Hula hooping.
  • Going on a walk while listening to music.

Why is joyful movement important?

Joyful movement can be helpful if you’re struggling with getting a workout routine started — especially if one of the things holding you back is a general dislike for exercise.

And while pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is important, you should never feel like you’re dreading exercising. And you should never overwork yourself in a way that can cause injury or create stress.

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As Lawton points out, any form of exercise that improves your consistency is a win. Maybe some days you want to hit the gym, lift some weights or take a fast-paced cycling class. But other days, you may feel more moved to have a spontaneous dance break while doing the dishes or go roller skating around the park.

How to practice joyful movement 

Think of joyful movement as a mindset that can be added to any kind of workout — whether it’s simple, difficult or anywhere in between. It’s all about making movement more fun, enjoyable and easy to repeat —because the best types of workouts are the ones you can inject into your everyday life.

Ready to get joyful with your movement? Here are some ways to work this approach into your exercise routines.

Combine exercise with your favorite things

One of the best ways to motivate yourself to do a workout is to add a bonus to it. Maybe it’s listening to your favorite playlist while on a power walk or run. Or maybe it’s switching on a funny show while doing a cardio workout at home.

Lawton notes that the hardest part of starting to exercise often is taking the first step. So, if you’re able to give yourself a little treat to motivate yourself to exercise, it’ll be easier to move in the right direction.

“I think the biggest challenge is finding whatever is going to help maintain consistency with exercise,” she says. Combining your new exercise routine with a tried-and-true habit you already enjoy is a great way to help keep the workouts coming.

Exercise with family and friends

Sure, we may sometimes love putting on headphones and getting “in the zone” during a workout. But other times, it can be nice to change it up and have a workout buddy. Especially if you’re trying out a new workout class or experimenting with a new routine, having a friend by your side can be a great motivator.

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Exercising with a buddy can also be a great way to try a new workout you haven’t done before. “If someone is inviting you to try a certain form of exercise with you, I would encourage you to try it even if you’re a bit intimidated by it,” Lawton suggests. Plus, your friend can also help keep you accountable for maintaining a consistent exercise routine.

Try a sample platter of workouts

If your answer to the question, “What’s your favorite type of workout?” is, “I don’t know,” that’s OK! Especially if you’re new to developing an exercise routine, finding what feels genuinely fun may take some time to figure out.

“You may need to go out of your way a little bit to try different methods of exercise in order to find something that you like to do,” relays Lawton.

You can start by looking back on what you’ve enjoyed in the past — either as a child or adult — and reintroduce yourself to certain exercises. Maybe you remember loving swimming in high school or wish you had gone further in your ballet class. Whatever it is, follow that curiosity and let yourself taste-test different workouts until one sticks.

Remember that everyone starts somewhere

Another thing that can suck the joy out of working out is giving into feeling self-conscious. Still working up the courage to try that cycling or aerial yoga class? Don’t let the fear of how others may perceive you hold you back. Because that could be depriving you of a potentially enjoyable workout.

Instead, give yourself grace and don’t hold others on a pedestal. Everyone has to start somewhere. “You have to remember that everyone was in that position that you were in at one point,” Lawton encourages.

Raise the difficulty little by little

If joyful movement gets you into a good groove of consistent movement — great! Now, it may be time to make sure you’re meeting certain goals your body needs. Depending on our ages and health backgrounds, we all require a certain amount of exercise per week to keep our bodies in their best shape.

“There’s a base level of cardio exercise and strength training that we should be doing,” says Lawton. You can measure this based on your heart rate or by how you feel after a good workout. “You should be able to hold a conversation, but raising your voice is going to be a challenge. And that's how we generally figure out what moderate intensity exercise generally is for people.”

Plus, the time you spend working out matters, too. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. And if your exercise routine starts to feel really joyful, you may not want to cut it short anyway!

The bottom line

Joyful movement can be a helpful tool or mindset to get yourself into a healthy workout routine. Try to pick a movement routine that meets the minimum requirement that your body needs to stay healthy.

Whether it’s tai chi, joining a bowling league or jumping rope, it’s important to find joy in your exercise routine — and to feel good while doing it.

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