The right exercise will make your new year happier. It’s true. Physically active people tend to be happier. Studies across the country and the world prove it time out of mind. Researchers from the University of Vermont tell us that 20 minutes of exercise can reward you will 12 hours of good mood. A study at Rutgers tells us that moderate-intensity strength training has significant mood-boosting benefits. The New York Times recently published a wellness article advocating the use of running in combination with meditation to combat depression. And those who exercise regularly reap rewards not just in fitness and heath but in self-esteem and confidence. It’s obvious that we should exercise, but how do we find the right exercise?!
You can take an online quiz that will define your body type, your BMI, or your fitness personality. You can find workout a regimen that compliments your ‘metabolism type,’ your blood type, or even your horoscope. You can find scholarly articles that instruct Type A personalities to practice yoga and meditation and Type B personalities to take up kickboxing and BodyPump. There is plenty of great fitness advice out there, to be sure, but the only person who can choose a fitness program for you is you.
To answer the question of how to choose the right exercise, we take a page from the Tidying Up book. A few years ago, a pocket-sized turquoise book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing created a firestorm of home cleanliness all over the world. In it, Marie Kondo instructs us to go through our belongings and basically discard anything which does not spark joy. Hold each of your belongings in your hand. If you do not feel joy as you hold it, toss it!
Joy can work for your workout in exactly the same way. If the exercise you choose to commit to for the new year (or even just the new month) does not bring you joy, you will not stick with it. On the other hand, an exercise that sparks joy might be one you practice for the rest of your life.
Here’s how to set yourself up for successfully discovering the right exercise for you:
Try several different styles of exercise
Ballet might spark joy for you, who knows? Try a new fad exercise like aerial yoga, recruit a friend, try using a personal trainer, try something you loved as a kid, try something that might make you a little uncomfortable. Be daring.
Take your time
You might not discover your ideal exercise on the first day or even the first week of this exploration. No matter! You are on the right road. Stay on it.
Notice how you feel before the exercise. Are you excited? Do you dread it? Write it down. Notice how you feel after the workout. Was it fun? Was it painful? Are you happy? Write it down. Keep a little exercise journal as you make these discoveries.
The tidying up guru, Marie Kondo instructs us to respect our belongings. Do the same for your body. If you’ve been on the couch for a while, go easy on yourself. If you’re older, give yourself a little bit of a break. If you’re young, know that you are not invincible. No matter your fitness level, treat your body with reverence.
Nostalgia is not your friend
I used to be so good at _______ (skiing, sky-diving, yoga, weight-lifting, belly dancing), but now, not so much… The human body is in constant flux. The individual cells of your body have a finite life span. The life span of each of your cells depends on how much work it is asked to do. You may not be able to do what you once could. On the other hand, do not limit yourself by your previous performance.
Make it Fun
Treat this right-exercise search like a fun experiment or a dim-sum brunch. Happy new year. The right exercise will make it even happier.