We’ve all been there: You’ve got the fitness bug, you’re ready to make the change, you’re excited—and then the reality hits of that new, 45-minute strength class or the distance of that 10km jog. A daunting task by itself, and how do you find the time? 

Fitting workouts into your day isn’t always easy, especially when you’ve got your usual routine down pat. But what if exercise was as simple as switching the coffee maker on? 

Okay, so that particular action doesn’t actually count as exercise. The time between the kettle boiling and your hot cup of joe is what we’re going to talk about t. Specifically, using that time to fit in a mini-workout by habit stacking.

Habit stacking 101

The idea of habit stacking is simple: Stack a new, small activity onto something you already do. It’s a way to use your already established habits or routines to your advantage. Your regular activity will act as a reminder to do that new thing each time—making the whole combo one big habit.

Why does this work? Habit stacking camouflages the new-to-you task into your normal, everyday behaviours. It makes the things you are less stoked to do—that new habit—just a simple part of a daily to-do you’re already comfortable with.

The beauty of habit stacking is it isn’t just for one new habit, either. Build up those Jenga blocks of tasks into one super habit tower! Once you’re no longer thinking about that original stacked habit (i.e., it’s become routine), you can keep the momentum going and stack some more.

Fitness testing the theory

A great place to test this out is through new fitness habits. This doesn’t necessarily mean building an extensive workout routine; it can be as simple as adding in an exercise to a task you already do each day

  • Brushing your teeth? Add in a wall sit. 
  • Waiting for the coffee to brew? Do some lunges.
  • Let the dog out for a morning pee? Try jumping jacks while you wait.
  • Checking your morning email? Do calf raises at the same time.

That said, if you’re trying to build new types of exercise into your current workout routine, habit stacking is great for that too

  • Heading out on your morning run? Add in 5 minutes of core exercises to create one slightly bigger fitness routine.
  • Hitting the weights? Add in 10 minutes of stretching at the end of your training session, and call all of that your workout. Comfortable with that addition? Now add in 10 minutes of cardio before your weight training.

What’s the hype about building healthy habits?

Small, daily changes to your exercise routine can bring about big results. Exercise can make you stronger, help you lose weight, reduce back pain, boost your sex drive, make your heart healthier, improve your sleep and reduce stress. 

Stacking your habits is a simple way to start that movement momentum and let exercise fit into your life in small steps rather than one giant leap.

Plus, habit stacking doesn’t have to be all about exercise! It can work to add in new habits like flossing, reading, learning a new language, mindful breathing, and more. 

Some food for thought:

  • Looking to read more often? Add 10 minutes of reading into your bedtime routine right before you turn out the light. 
  • Is your dental hygienist’s voice ringing in your ear to floss more? Tack flossing onto your tooth-brushing time.
  • Interest piqued by the idea of lowering stress? Get a mindful minute in while you wait for your shower to warm up.

Once you’ve got the concept on lock, habit stacking can be used in many different ways to make new habits blend into your current routine. Whether it’s fitness or flossing, it’s worth a shot to see the small changes build into a positive, healthy habit routine.

Have you given habit stacking a try? Let us know in the comments what habit you’ve stacked successfully!

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