Get happy with all kinds of exercise.
Over the last two years, large numbers of people have re-evaluated their experiences and expectations and they are prioritizing happiness in their work and life. And it turns out exercise is a significant way to drive happiness as well as plenty of other benefits like improved memory, motivation and overall satisfaction. In addition, exercise is hugely popular and involvement in all kinds of fitness activities is skyrocketing.
In addition, with hybrid work on the rise and here to stay, exercise routines are impacted. But cool new reserach suggests fitness routines can be optimized no matter where people are working. Amping up exercise is a good idea—and fitness choices have multiple effects on happiness.
Exercise increases happiness and wellbeing, and it reduces depression and anxiety. According to a study by the University of Michigan more exercise leads to more happiness, but even small bouts of exercise have positive benefits. Exercise has also been proven to have positive effects at all ages. For example, a study by West Virginia University found exercise led to happiness for middle school students and the University of Iowa found motivation was increased for seniors—and their cognitive function and memory were also improved with exercise.
Exercise is also related to happiness because it is an experience, rather than an item to own. According to a study by the University of Texas, when people invest in experiences, they are significantly happier than when they purchase things. Engaging in fitness activities provides for richer, deeper experiences which are typically both challenging and rewarding.
Interestingly, there is a spillover effect between work and other life experiences. When people are happier outside of work, they report a greater perception of happiness in their work—so driving happiness through fitness impacts a sense of joy, contentment and health across the work-life experience.
Here’s how to get the most out of exercise, no matter where or how you’re working.
According to a study of user reservations for 31,000 gyms, studios and spas across 30 countries by ClassPass, the top workouts people engage in are strength training, yoga, cycling, Pilates, barre, boxing, gym work outs, running, livestream yoga and dance.
Running, in particular, has been found to increase mood and cognitive function according to a study by the University of Tsukuba. And the runner’s high is real, according to research at the University of Montreal. The experience of euphoria is driven by both endorphins and dopamine releases in the brain.
Where you live may also influence the fitness activities you choose. According to the ClassPass data, those who live in Sacramento are most likely to choose dance work outs and those who live in Missoula, Montana are most likely to choose cycling classes. In LA, people are more likely to book classes that take place outside.
You can also choose how you engage in fitness based on your mood. For example, according to the ClassPass data, when people are stressed, they’re most likely to do bootcamps, HIT classes or indoor cycling. And when they’re seeking calm or restorative experiences after a long day at work, they select Pilates, yoga or ballet. These are apparently great choices, and yoga is a case-in-point: According to research as the Boston University Medical Center, engaging in yoga reduces depression and results in greater positivity.
You can also optimize fitness by working out when it’s most convenient. Research has shown again and again, people are most likely to stick with a fitness routine when it fits best into their lives. According to the ClassPass data, the most popular time to exercise is on Tuesday at 5:30pm for an hour. People are most likely to take Sunday off.
In addition, those most likely to work out early are in Minneapolis, and those most likely to work out over lunch are in Austin. Those most likely to work out at night are in Florida. Those who book in advance are typically in Milwaukee, while those who schedule at the last minute are in Nashville. And those most likely to cancel at the last minute are in New York City. And Dallas leads the pack in terms of overall reservations—they make the most commitments to fitness activities.
Work out whether you work from home or the office.
If you’re working in the office, you can also take advantage of the proximity to your fitness facility. In fact, the ClassPass data shows 64% of people stop by fitness facilities during their commute and most people prefer to work out on their way home from the office.
Those who work from home are taking advantage of flexibility in working time, and 70% going into fitness studios on days they work from home. People who work from home are also twice as likely to try a new fitness facility and also twice as likely to livestream classes on days they work from home.
Happiness is significantly related to having meaningful connections with others—for both introverts and extroverts. A study by Southwestern Methodist University found people experienced the greatest joy when they shared activities together. This is another benefit of exercise—when you can sweat with a friend.
The ClassPass data reinforces the social benefits of exercise: Ppeople are 45% more likely to continue a new workout routine when they take a class with a friend during the first month of their commitment. And people who take classes with friends are 63% more likely to maintain their routine for twelve months or longer. And the city where people are most likely to book with a friend? Salt Lake City.
No matter where you live, combing exercise with social time is good for your health and good for your happiness.
With the stress of the last two years, happiness is a priority, and exercise is a compelling way to accomplish it. No matter what you love to do, which routine works best or where you’re working or living, fitness can be a way to have more happiness in both work and life. Now is a great time to join the fitness trend and create work-life happiness.
Note: Studies in this article by West Virginia University, the University of Iowa, the University of Montreal and Boston University Medical Center are available here and posted 12/12/21.