Can eight minutes of exercise make you happier? There is only one shocking and embarrassing way to find out | Emma Beddington


cAn exercise that sparks joy and if I can’t get rid of it, Marie Kondo style? I write this from my traditional stance: a stationary, curved ball, like a gargoyle (expression and posture). As one of the 47% of British women who haven’t done any vigorous exercise in the past year, I hardly move. Lately it’s gotten worse: the dog is too big for hiking, the Pilates too far, which means I pay £35 a month just for guilt, and I’m really busy, okay? (If you can get your heart rate up with defensiveness and excuses, I’ll be fine.) The past six months have been the lowest physical activity since I had glandular fever at 19, a time when I look back with nostalgic longing: sleep for 14 hours Read for 10 minutes, have a snack, and then go back to sleep.

I feel bad: stiff, aching and restless. But is it because sitting in front of my laptop 12 hours a day and then going to the couch to stare at a bigger screen is objectively bad for me, or because I’m culturally qualified to think it’s bad? Well, it’s a first, but peer pressure also crushes. Every middle-aged woman in the media did a dalia inscription, a six-pack and a story about how happy she was to be robbed. I’m glad we, collectively, will soon be able to literally crush patriarchy, but I’m certainly not carrying (lifting) my weight.

I need to move that tired piece of meat, but I’ve never found the workout really fun, which is why I’ve been looking forward to the eight-and-a-half minutes Joy Workout. May some joy be kind – simple and useful Freudinstead of Shaden Variety, which seems to be the only one on British shelves at the moment. Plus, no one’s too busy to save eight and a half minutes – I spent more time than that looking at the Daily Star lettuce last week.

Created by health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, the exercise combines movements that show positive emotions and are remarkably cheerful, multicultural, and is set to a soundtrack “aimed at promoting positive emotions.” There is a video to follow, in seven themed sections. I’ve tried it and provided my findings in case you too are seeking happiness through (short manageable) movement.

start access Section, I realize I was expecting it to be less… exercise-y? Reaching is hell on my narrow shoulders. Sway, a gently expanding side-by-side motion that makes me look like one of my aunts at a wedding before Come on Eileen comes along; Move away from the window. “How will you feel when you throw your fists in the air?” bounce Section asks whose answer was “terrible”. Shake is a moment of rest, but it takes six seconds of Jump for me to whisper: “I hate this.” And when the hilarious voiceover suggests I “try some jumping jacks,” I’m back to the rhino’s wound in pain. The celebration is supposed to look like throwing scraps of paper; Here it feels like waking up cracked my spine.

The final section, Freestyle, invites you to improvise, which I do with all the loose, rhythmic abandon of one of those heavy-dressed priests at the Queen’s funeral. Then I noticed I had a new unwelcome email: I check it, I curse, then I sit down and start working again. This is why I can’t have nice things, like working shoulders.

I’m not sure you can swish a bundle of joy by following a special exercise recipe. It tends to crawl when you least expect it, I find. The closest I’ve come to at the moment is riding my bike. I’ve never had the balance or courage in cycling, but I took a beginner’s course this year, and with encouragement, kindness and the occasional urging, something clicked. Now I’m looking for excuses to wander along the quiet streets and cycling paths, a sense of speed (for me – still overtaken by babies and very old people) and freedom. Sometimes, on my bike, I consume moments of childish happiness: the rush of air, the fun, the feeling that life is really amazing. Is this what exercise addicts are talking about? I suppose this could spread.

Emma Beddington is a columnist for the Guardian newspaper

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