Exercise Hack: Temptation Bundling

Darria Long Gillespie, MD MBA

Brussels sprouts are all the rage on menus today. But, let’s be honest—they’re really just a vector for butter. By adding butter. . . and bacon, we’ve made these mini cabbages the plat du jour that we all love.

Exercising may feel a lot like eating plain Brussels sprouts—but what if we found the equivalent of butter and bacon for exercise? Suddenly, instead of pushing exercise to the side, you’d be seeking it out.

Sounds crazy? It’s not—and it’s called temptation bundling (TB). In TB, you pair something you don’t always feel like doing (like exercising), with an indulgence (like watching Game of Thrones).

In a Wharton study on temptation bundling, participants were assigned to one of two groups: (A) the TB group, who were allowed to listen to an addictive audio book only when they exercised and (B) the control group, who could listen whenever they wanted. Those in the TB group worked out at the gym 51 percent more! Follow the steps below for your own temptation bundles. (Oh, it sounds so naughty, doesn’t it?)

  • Choose your indulgence. What do you enjoy? Is it watching Real Housewives? A good junk magazine? Or a new music playlist? Choose an indulgence that you regularly look forward to.
  • Pair the indulgence with an exercise. Choose an exercise that allows you to simultaneously do that indulgence. Listen to an addictive audiobook or watch Game of Thrones while you’re on the treadmill, read your favorite junk magazine while you’re on the stair-climber, or make a playlist of your favorite songs for running.
  • Only let yourself engage in the indulgence while exercising. This is key. Whatever you choose, do not let yourself indulge when you’re not exercising, or this falls apart. When my People magazine arrives or I hear a favorite running song (two of my indulgences), it actually makes me look forward to exercising. You’ll find that happens for you quickly if you adhere to this rule.
  • Update the bundle when its effect starts to wear off. This effect can wear off over time, particularly when your book ends, the show’s season is over, or the playlist music becomes stale. So, refresh your indulgences as needed.

Want more hacks? Check out bestselling new release Mom Hacks, today! Also, follow Dr. Darria on Instagram or Facebook for more great tips.

Darria Long Gillespie, MD MBA
Dr. Darria Long is a Yale- and Harvard-trained emergency physician, author of bestselling book Mom Hacks (Hachette), a TV host and expert on HLN, CNN, The Dr. Oz Show, and other networks, and TED speaker. A mom of two herself, Dr. Darria has become the national "make-life-better-for-women doctor”, taking the best of science to make being healthy easy, enjoyable - and entirely doable. She is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Tennessee School of Medicine. She received her MBA from Harvard Business School and residency training from Yale School of Medicine.

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