Joy-Full Physical Activity: Exploring the Essence(s) of Joy through Embodied Inquiries of long-term Zumba Participants

Brittany Glynn, University of Ottawa, Canada

Theme: Exercise and health behaviors

Program ID: LEC-16C

Presentation: October 5, 2013 2:45 pm - 3:45 pm

Room: Jasperwood


What is the experience of joy during physical activity and exercise? What is it like to feel fully connected and engaged in the animated experience of motile joy (Lloyd, 2011) that enhances perceptions of being fully alive? Exercise derives from the Latin words exercitium, or exercere, meaning to “keep busy” (Chantrell, 2004), suggesting a busy pursuit or working action. Modern day conceptions of exercise validate movement as a “working” term, emphasizing outcome variables (e.g., pounds lost, lowered Body Mass Index) housed within a Cartesian dualism separating the mind and body. The mind-body disconnect may suggest why conventional methods and approaches are not fostering increased participation in physical activity and exercise. Adopting embodied approaches to understanding movement brings the “human” back to the human movement experience (Rintalla, 1991). This research project aimed to explore the question “What is the joyful movement experience?” through a hermeneutic phenomenological methodology, grounded in the philosophical frameworks of phenomenologists Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger and movement philosophers Sheets-Jonhstone and Shusterman. Seven long-term Zumba participants participated in three semi-structured interviews, personal journaling, and one focus group interview over the duration of five months. Interview questions examined: the way(s) joy is defined or understood by participants; what enhances or detracts from their experience of motile joy; and how joy “moves” during their Zumba experience. Thematic analyses of participants’ experiential accounts were guided by van Manen’s (1997) selective highlighting approach and free imaginative variation, as understood through the lived existentials of time, space, other, and body. Results included the following themes: the joyous release from everyday life; the space to play and embrace the inner child; the visceral validation of sweat insinuating meaningful movement. These findings may better assist practitioners in understanding the qualitative tenets associated with embodied movement experiences that may promote lifelong physical and mental well-being.

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