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Does Movement Bring Happiness, or Soda?

“Movement is happiness.”

This is the theme behind Coca-Cola’s newest ad campaign as they attempt to refute concerns about the number of calories in soda. They seem to be saying that since movement equals happiness, you should be delighted to ride a bike for 23 minutes to preemptively burn off the 140 calories in a 12-ounce can of soda – thereby “earning” the drink. To prove this, the ad shows people riding a bike to carnival music, laughing while they attempt to get to the magical 140 calories that will reward them with their soda.

I’m not sold on this idea.

To be fair, I like the term movement, since it doesn’t have as much baggage or negative associations as exercise. I also believe that movement, among other things, can make people happy. So far, so good.

That being said, the type of activity varies from person to person. Let’s face it. For a lot of us, slender or otherwise, biking for 23 minutes is not the path to happiness. Coca-Cola may not have meant to force the idea of cycling, but it comes across that way to me.

Even ignoring that, I don’t like the approach of “earning” something to eat or drink. Does this mean that I need to exercise heavily before I consume 140 calories of anything? And if I don’t burn it off (before or after), the implication is that I’m bad, that I’ve cheated somehow and should feel guilty.

In that light, the cheery music and smiling people in the video suddenly seem very false. They’re only happy because they played by the rules, not because of the activity itself. It makes the video’s final question, “Where will happiness strike next?” feel hollow.

I think a more effective ad campaign equating movement with happiness would show people of all shapes and sizes moving in ways that they clearly enjoyed. For some, this might be biking, but it might also be running, playing with children (certainly my nephew keeps me hopping!), swimming, yoga, rock climbing, walking the dog, dancing to lively music, or any number of other things. And it wouldn’t have any tie-in to what you should eat or drink or how many calories you burn.

Admittedly, that might not work so well for selling soda. But it just might help remind people to think about their bodies as something joyful, something to feel good about. That would be far more revolutionary.

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