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  • Dr. Norbert Martin, DPT

How to Use Temptation Bundling to Make Exercise More Enjoyable and Effective

Recreational athlete riding a stationary bike and watching TV

Do you struggle with finding the motivation to exercise regularly? Do you often procrastinate on your workouts and find excuses to skip them? Do you wish you could enjoy exercise more and make it a habit that sticks?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone. Many people face the same challenges when it comes to exercising. Exercise is often viewed as a "should" behavior that requires willpower and discipline, while activities like watching TV or reading provide instant gratification but may not be as beneficial in the long run.

How can we overcome this dilemma and make exercise more attractive and enjoyable? The answer is temptation bundling.

Temptation bundling is a productivity technique that involves combining an activity that gives you instant gratification with one that is beneficial but has a delayed reward, such as exercising. By linking these activities, you can reduce procrastination and increase overall efficiency.

In this article, we will explore the benefits of temptation bundling, provide guidance on creating your own temptation bundles, and offer examples of successful temptation bundling strategies for exercise. By the end of this article, you will have a clear understanding of how to use temptation bundling to make exercise more fun and effective.

Benefits of Temptation Bundling

Temptation bundling offers several advantages in making exercise more enjoyable and motivating. Here are some key benefits:

1. Increased motivation: Temptation bundling leverages the power of rewards to motivate you to engage in activities you might otherwise avoid. By combining an activity you want to do with one you need to do, you create a strong incentive to complete the latter. This approach helps you avoid feeling guilty for indulging in activities you enjoy.

2. Reduced boredom: Temptation bundling injects variety and entertainment into your exercise routine, making it more enjoyable. By selecting activities you love and that align with your mood and preferences, you can make exercise more engaging. This approach helps combat boredom and restlessness during workouts.

3. Creation of positive associations: Temptation bundling helps form positive associations between exercise and pleasure. By pairing exercise with something that brings you happiness or relaxation, you establish a positive feedback loop that reinforces your exercise habit. This method helps alleviate stress or anxiety associated with exercise.

Additionally, temptation bundling enables you to measure and track your exercise progress. For example, if you use audiobooks as your temptation bundle, you can monitor the number of chapters or hours you've listened to while exercising, which can provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

How to Create Your Own Temptation Bundles

Creating your own temptation bundles is simple and enjoyable. Follow these steps to get started:

1. Identify activities: Make a list of activities that bring you joy or relaxation (e.g., watching TV, reading, listening to podcasts) in one column, and another list of beneficial activities that require discipline (e.g., exercising, studying, meditating) in another column.

2. Combine "wants" with "shoulds": Review your lists and find suitable combinations of gratifying "want" behaviors and necessary "should" activities. Ensure compatibility in terms of time, location, and equipment.

3. Check for conflicts: Before committing to a temptation bundle, ensure it does not create any conflicts or harm for yourself or others. For example, if you want to watch TV while exercising, adjust the volume or use headphones to avoid disturbance.

4. Set rules and boundaries: Establish rules and boundaries to make your temptation bundle effective. For instance, decide to only engage in the tempting activity while exercising and set limits on the duration or frequency of the bundle.

Examples of Successful Temptation Bundling for Exercise

To provide inspiration, here are some successful examples of temptation bundling for exercise:

1. Watching Netflix while riding a stationary bike: Ronan Byrne, an electrical engineering student, connected his stationary bike to his laptop and television. He wrote a program that only allowed Netflix to run if he was cycling at a certain speed, pausing the show when he slowed down.

2. Listening to audiobooks while walking or running: A field experiment conducted by Milkman and her colleagues provided participants with iPods loaded with tempting novels, accessible only while at the gym. This approach increased participants' likelihood of exercising.

3. Playing video games while using a treadmill desk: A treadmill desk allows you to walk on a treadmill while working on your computer or other tasks. This method lets you burn calories and improve your health while enjoying video games.

4. Socializing with friends while joining a fitness class: By joining a fitness class with friends, you can combine social interaction with exercise. This approach provides motivation, support, and an opportunity to participate in activities aligned with your interests and goals.

These examples represent a fraction of the possibilities for using temptation bundling in exercise. Experiment with different combinations to find what works best for you.


Here are some frequently asked questions about temptation bundling:

Q: What are the common challenges or pitfalls with temptation bundling?

A: One challenge is losing interest in the activity used as a temptation bundle. To overcome this, have multiple options ready for your temptation bundles, such as different genres or series. Another challenge is breaking the rules of the bundle. To address this, use commitment devices or accountability partners. Running out of ideas for temptation bundles is another challenge, but seeking inspiration from others and trying new activities can help overcome it.

Q: Can I use temptation bundling for other behaviors besides exercise?

A: Yes, you can apply temptation bundling to any behavior that requires willpower or discipline, such as studying, meditating, flossing, or saving money. Find an activity that provides instant gratification and pair it with the behavior you wish to improve.

Q: What are other techniques or strategies to help me exercise more?

A: In addition to temptation bundling, several techniques can help increase exercise adherence, including setting specific and realistic goals, planning workouts ahead of time, tracking progress, finding an exercise buddy or community, making exercise enjoyable, using positive reinforcement, removing distractions, and cultivating a positive mindset.

Final Thoughts

Temptation bundling is a straightforward and effective method to make exercise more enjoyable and effective. By combining instant gratification activities with long-term beneficial ones, you can boost motivation, alleviate boredom, and develop positive associations with exercise. Temptation bundling can also help limit unhealthy habits and behaviors that impede your fitness and health goals.

To create your own temptation bundles, identify activities you want to do and need to do, find ways to link them, and establish rules and boundaries. Experiment with different combinations to discover what works best for you.

Remember, temptation bundling extends beyond exercise and can be applied to various behaviors that require willpower or discipline. If you want to learn more about temptation bundling and other productivity techniques, consult the sources provided in this article.

Enjoy the journey of making exercise more enjoyable and beneficial with temptation bundling!


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