Habit Stacking Techniques and Advice from your Physiotherapist

We all know that sitting for long periods can lead to muscular aches and pains, particularly around the neck and shoulders.

However, it’s one thing to know that sitting for long periods isn’t ideal but it can be a real challenge to remember to move when you’re absorbed in work or have deadlines.

Apps or timing software which vibrate at intervals to remind you to move are sometimes helpful but I really only recommend them for short term use and for very specific clinical reasons.

For example, if one of my patients has a painful condition which is easily stirred up by a particular activity like typing, then timing software, preset to limit the time spent typing continuously, can help the painful area calm down and become less sensitive.

Using a timer in this way can be effective in the early stages of treatment but in my experience it’s not sustainable in the longer term because. like hitting the snooze button in the morning, it’s easy to turn of the reminder.

So, if you want to make a habit of moving more regularly during your working day for the long term, I recommend the ‘habit stacking method’ developed by behaviourist BJ Fogg.

What is habit stacking and how to do it

Habit stacking is a way of helping you form new habits by building them into your existing routines. Put simply, if you’re trying to build a new habit, pair it with a current habit and it’s more likely to stick.

It’s simple but extremely effective because it taps into the strong connections you already have with patterns of behaviour which have been strengthened over years of repetition.

So if the habit you would like to develop is to move more regularly during your working day then an example of habit stacking might look something like this:

After I check my emails (current habit), I will stand up (new habit).

Once the new habit has become part of your routine, the you can stack another habit next to this one and create a domino effect of habits, one by one.

For example, after I check my emails, I will stand up. After I stand up, I will write a to-do list. After I write my to-do list, I will take a quick walk. And so on.

Habit stacking tips from your physio

  • Be realistic – don’t plan to add in a new habit at a time of day when something else is likely to take priority like the school run or a regular morning meeting
  • If your new habit is something you want to do daily, don’t stack it on top of a current habit that only happens once a week.
  • Be very specific about your new habit so you have very clear instructions. For example, after I put the kettle on, I will jog on the spot continuously until it turns off.

I hope this helps, please get in touch if you need any more guidance with your habit stacking!

The Physiofit Team.