The Virtual Vine Blog

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 Tags: Physical Health


What does joyful exercise mean to you? Whether it's an outdoor sport you're passionate about like running or horseback riding, or you get excited about gains from weight training, joyful exercise is simply movement that brings you joy. We’re here to talk about the benefits of joyful exercise, and share some tips that you can use to incorporate into your routine. The physical benefits of exercise are well known, but we don’t often think about the benefits that exercise poses for our cognitive function and mental health. I’m a busy mom of three young kids and am building an AI-driven health technology company that uses physical and mental exercise to encourage healing after an acquired brain injury.

I've been able to thrive in this busy season, in part, due to a daily ritual of physical exercise. Not just any exercise but physical exercise that brings me joy; daily movement that I look forward to. Through all stages of my life, I've made joyful exercise a core part of my health ritual. As an NCAA sprinter, this exercise was intense and competitive in nature. As a new mom suffering from post-partum depression, this exercise was gentle yoga in the sun with my sister. Now, as a busy CEO, this exercise looks more like early morning runs, or long walks in the woods with my dog and my three young kids. The type of exercise does not matter as long as it brings you joy and gets your body moving on a regular basis. The joy part is key for several reasons including sustainability. A lifetime of consistent exercise has a huge impact on your long-term brain health. If your exercise routine is not joyful and sustainable, it cannot evolve into a lifestyle of health and wellness.

This type of joyful exercise is great because it creates a positive feedback cycle. Scientifically, we have known for a long time that exercise releases brain chemicals that improve mood, decrease the perception of pain, and increase motivation. Therefore, the more consistent you are with your exercise, the more motivated you are to keep exercising. What you may not know is that consistent exercise also makes your brain more sensitive to joy! Research has shown that exercise rewires the brain over time, causing a higher sensitivity to mood-boosting chemicals like dopamine. This type of consistent exercise can also repair neurological damage caused by substance abuse, slows the loss of brain tissue that occurs during the aging process, and even supports brain recovery after a concussion, stroke, and many other neurological disorders.

While exercise in any form is great, exercise with other people piles on further benefits. Research shows that the ‘high’ you get from exercising also bonds you with those you are exercising with. In fact, studies have found that couples who exercise together feel closer and more supported by one another and have more satisfaction in their relationships. On top of this, exercise with other people keeps you consistent and gives you the confidence to try new things. Rock climbing in the wild outdoors anyone?


While joyful exercise sounds great, it can still be difficult to make it a habit. Here are three helpful steps to start your positive relationship with exercise. 

  1. Identify a workout space that makes you feel joyful. Find a space that you look forward to being in. It could be a green space that brings you peace, a local boxing gym that pumps you up, or your newly renovated home office.

  2. Find your people. Make a list of people that bring you to life and exercise with them. Not only will exercising together improve your bond with these people, but these people can also hold you accountable to show up for that walk when you would rather binge watch tv.

  3. Book repeating dates with yourself to exercise. Blocking your calendar to exercise regularly allows you to show up fully for the rest of your life and actually improves productivity. Blocking this time for yourself is making a long-term commitment to care for your body and your mind.

The takeaway here is that making joyful exercise a part of your daily routine will keep your brain healthy and sharp. To make exercise a part of a lifestyle of wellness you need to move your body in a way that brings you joy, in a space you love with people that will go on this adventure with you.

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