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Making the Healthy Choice the Happy Choice

by IHRSA June 5, 2013

Our nation’s determined band of wellness revolutionaries has rallied around a wonderfully succinct and effective policy slogan: Make the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice.

 

In the context of promoting physical activity, the “easy choice” varies depending on the environment. At the workplace, for example, the “easy choice” might mean taking an authorized exercise break during the day, using a treadmill desk, or conducting walking meetings. At home, the “easy choice” could be a stroll along a well-lit and safe walking path leading to a marketplace.

 

As more and more policymakers consider whether their decisions make it easier or harder for Americans to make the “healthy choice,” the barriers to exercise will be chiseled down, and we will become a more active nation.

 

But I would like to add a parenthetical to strengthen the slogan.

 

Something like this: Make the Healthy Choice, the Easy (and Happy) Choice

 

In many cases, it’s not enough to create an “easy choice,” if the “easy choice” will not add happiness to the chooser’s life. For example, IHRSA (my employer) could install a 30-foot climbing wall inside my cubicle, but as someone whose blood pressure increases rapidly the further my shoes get from the ground, I would never climb the wall because climbing it would detract mightily from my happiness.  IHRSA couldn’t make it any easier, but I still wouldn’t do it.

 

Now, of course, “happiness” is a complex emotion, and there may be as many forms of happiness are there are people on the planet (e.g. here are plenty of happy things related to physical activity), but there are some basic human tendencies to consider when crafting “the easy (and happy) choice.”

 

1. Sometimes we want to go where everybody knows our name.

The secret weapon of many successful health clubs is the friendly front-desk person who seems genuinely pleased to see you and greets you by name. It’s nice to feel welcomed and valued. That quick interaction makes us feel happy and more likely to seek out a similar interaction in the future.

 

2.  Exercise is easier with a buddy or two (or ten…)

A long, lonesome walk can be inspiring, but it can also just be long and lonesome. On the other hand, a long talk with a buddy on a walking trail can fly right by, and satisfy a common need for social engagement (not just the kind over a network) and physical activity. For many people, easy choices are made easier when buddies are involved.  

3. Aesthetics matter

A treadmill desk in a dank office with peeling paint is a crummy option. Sure, it might provide easy access for time-saving physical activity, but it’s a downer, and not likely to put on many miles. A climate-controlled office, however, full of fun pictures, perhaps of employees or the local sports heroes, can be a happy place, and happy places compel return visits.

 

What are some other ways we can inject more happiness into the easy choices?

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