The Joy Workout

What is the joy workout?

Studies have shown that exercise, even in small amounts can elevate our mood. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal designed a workout that would specifically make people happy. The workout she designed is eight and a half minutes long and is a series of movements, which usually would not feature in a conventional workout.

“To design a happiness workout, I turned to the research I leverage in those classes, to maximize the joy people get from moving their bodies,” McGonigal writes in the New York Times. One of the movements is fans erupting with joy when their team wins the game– jumping up and down in joy.

Other movements include swaying side to side like concert-goers do and taking space or spinning with hands spread out as dancers do. Then there’s bouncing to a beat. When people in several small studies were instructed to perform these kinds of movements, they reported more positive emotions, she wrote. 

You know how you drag yourself to the gym, only to come out feeling happier than you’ve felt in days? That’s the magic of working out: It prompts your brain to release those feel-good neurotransmitters, serotonin and endorphins. What’s more, that afterglow you get from a single sweat session can last all day, according to a recent study from the University of Vermont.

But why wait? Have fun while you sweat—plus torch calories, build strength, and improve balance—with this playful 30-minute ball workout from trainer Marc Santa Maria, based on his hot Ultimate Ball class at Crunch in New York City. Do it 3 times a week for 4 weeks. You’ll not only boost your mood but also tone up and see all-over muscle definition.

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How to do it


Warm up with one of the cardio moves, then begin the strength workout. After each strength move, do one cardio move.

The cardio moves:

Speed Ball
Begin standing with a medicine ball or rubber playground ball in front of you. Bend down and touch the ball with your right hand while reaching your right leg behind your left leg (your left knee will bend; shown). Roll the ball to your left hand. Begin rolling the ball back toward your right hand as you transfer weight to your right foot and reach your left leg behind your right leg. Continue alternating back and forth at a fast pace for 30 seconds.

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Toe Taps


Begin standing with a medicine ball or rubber playground ball in front of you. Tap your right foot on ball (shown), then do the same with your left foot. Continue alternating at a fast pace for 30 seconds.

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The strength moves


Build muscle to get stronger and leaner, and you’ll naturally burn more calories throughout the day. Hooray for that!

Twist and Toss
A. Lie on your back on a stability ball with your feet securely on the ground. Holding a medicine ball or rubber playground ball, tighten your abs and twist to the right, then come back to the center.

B. With your hands directly above the center of your chest, toss the ball in the air and catch it. Twist to left, return to center, and toss again; that’s 1 rep. Do 10 reps.

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Figure Eights



Begin standing with feet hip-distance apart, holding a 4- to 6-pound medicine ball in both hands. Lower into a squat position, and weave ball behind and around left leg.

B. Return to standing, and lift your left leg out to the side to hip height while raising the ball overhead. Return to starting position, and repeat on the right side; that’s 1 rep. Do 10 reps.

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Squat Ball Toss


Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, holding a rubber playground ball in front of you. Toss ball in the air as high as you can, then catch it while lowering into a squat position (don’t let knees go past toes; shown). Return to starting position; that’s 1 rep. Do 10 reps.

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On-the-Ball Plank


Place your shins and tops of your feet on a stability ball with your hands on the ground in plank position (shown). Engage your core, squeeze your butt muscles, and hold for 1 minute.

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Knees In


Place your shins and the tops of your feet on a stability ball, with your hands on the ground in plank position. Pull your knees in toward your belly (shown), then straighten your legs again. (Or, for more of a challenge, raise your butt into the air to form an upside-down V shape.) That’s 1 rep; do 10–15 reps.

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Superman Lifts



Lie on your stomach on a stability ball so the ball is directly under your pelvic bone. Engage your butt muscles and hamstrings, and lift your arms and upper body up and out, as if flying like Superman. Lower back down to starting position; repeat 10 times.

B. Lean forward, and place hands on the ground. Engage butt muscles, and raise legs into the air. Keeping them in the air, open and close your legs 10 times.

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Pass-the-Ball Push-Up



Begin in plank position with a medicine ball or rubber playground ball on the ground between your hands. Lift right hand, and use it to lightly push ball toward left hand. Lift left hand, and tap the ball back toward your right hand.

B. Do 10 taps back and forth, then lower down so chin or chest touches ball. Repeat series 3 times.

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