logoThe People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1194: How You Can Discover the Joy of Movement

When you experience the joy of movement, you get multiple benefits for physical and mental health. What type of movement brings you joy?
Kelly McGonigal, PhD, author of the Joy of Movement
Current time

How You Can Discover the Joy of Movement

0% played0% buffered

Do your New Year’s resolutions include getting more exercise? By now, everybody knows exercise is good for us. But a lot of people view it as a chore or a bore instead of a delight. How can you experience the joy of movement?

Humans are built to move, and anthropologists have offered a hypothesis that the “runners high” helped our species survive at a time when hunting and gathering both required sustained physical activity. Getting a reward from activity itself helped people do what they needed to do to find food to keep their communities alive.

Finding the Joy of Movement:

Not everyone loves running, but running is not the only activity that can make you feel good. Some people swim, others dance, and many play sports like tennis or soccer. Have you found the activity that lets you experience the joy of movement? Do you have a special playlist that lifts your spirits while you work out? What about a group of people that like to join you when you are active? It could be your workout class, your team or a group of friends who enjoy walking with you. All of you encourage each other and provide social support as well as an incentive to keep moving.

Tapping Physical Activity for Healing:

Cancer patients who are physically active improve their odds of surviving longer. They also enjoy a better quality of life while undergoing treatment. That’s why our friend Tom Ferguson (Doc Tom) brought a stationary bike into his hospital room when he underwent a bone marrow transplant for multiple myeloma. The data are strong enough that cancer programs should consider including exercise oncology as part of their offerings.

Movement can also benefit people with many other serious conditions. You might not think that patients with Parkinson disease would be able to experience the joy of movement since moving is difficult for them. However, being able to move can feel wonderful and help alleviate symptoms.

Changing our Stories Through the Joy of Movement:

How do you think of yourself? Just moving your body can give you feedback: you are strong, you are graceful, you are quick. You may not get this wonderful feedback the first time you try an activity. It takes time to learn to do any new movement with the proper form and with power. Figure on six weeks to learn to enjoy a new way of moving. Find out how you can learn to appreciate the joy of movement and incorporate it into your life every day.

This Week’s Guest:

Dr. Kelly McGonigal is a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University who specializes in understanding the mind-body connection. As a pioneer in the field of “science-help,” her mission is to translate insights from psychology and neuroscience into practical strategies that support personal well-being and strengthen communities.She is the best-selling author of The Willpower Instinct and The Upside of Stress. Her latest book, The Joy of Movement, explores why physical exercise is a powerful antidote to the modern epidemics of depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

Buy the CD

Rate this article
4.2- 51 ratings
About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
Tired of the ads on our website?

Now you can browse our website completely ad-free for just $5 / month. Stay up to date on breaking health news and support our work without the distraction of advertisements.

Browse our website ad-free
Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.

Showing 6 comments
Add your comment

Excellent program extolling the virtues of movement and exercise in general — each of us needs to find our happy way to move. Interesting that music makes a big difference, but more than that, if your favorite activity isn’t a social one (like dancing, aerobics, or team sports) — perhaps because of geography or occupation, then having something that lifts your spirits is a good accompaniment too. (Yes, listening to this podcast for an hour while doing a 10K run is pretty good, although one will eventually run out of episodes!)

I’m less than 2 months from turning 60, and very much wish to avoid all medications and interventions as long as possible. Exercise is a key element of my life — at least an hour’s running on nature trails or if weather is poor, stationary biking, every day. My goal, which I set out to achieve about 5 years ago, was to run the circumference of the planet — and am about 15,000 km into the ~40,000 km journey — before turning 70. On track. (what next? Run to the moon…?). When watching favorite sports on TV, I stand rather than sit. I work from a computer, but from a standing position, frequently stretching and moving around. I’ll even play video games with my son, standing, while he sits!

The result is that since building these practices into my life, as well as eliminating all added sugar (in fact, anything sweet) in my diet, going to mostly plant-based — with a fair bit of fish and a lesser amount of chicken, has left me far more content, if perhaps a bit fidgety! Laughter and exercise trump all but the most essential of drugs for staying well!

I was a dancer from age 13 to age 78 when I broke a leg and had horrible treatment in hospital, resulting in bad leg and a cane forever. I am now 83 and have recently discovered swim exercise which has restored my ability to use both legs to music; the instructor plays our old fashioned rock n’ roll, and we all flap our flab around happily in the pool for an hour. It’s not the same as 25 years of line dance and exercise but it helps a lot. I’ve always been a happy person but would certainly be happier if I could still dance.

I used to exercise, broke both shoulders, started lying around & wonder if I can get back in condition. Been 5 years. I’m just afraid & kind of depressed about it. Am 78.

Just wondering if you’ve ever done a show on Dance/Movement Therapy. Seems like this is pretty is pretty close, but DMT has been around for 50+ years and should get a little credit.

We seem to forget that in times past people would regularly dance. Now science is telling us that it wasn’t just a frivolous activity, but who needs science to tell us that?

I wonder if Dr. McGonigal knows about the research study being done at Stanford on the Egoscue Pain Relief Method of movement. The method is putting your body in different positions to realign your body and relieve pain. I am in the study and wonder if mentions Egoscue.

* Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^