Habit Challenge #4: Movement

Move More

by Catherine King MSc. CSCS

When it comes to movement, there is planned physical activity and there is the movement involved in day-to-day existing. Planned physical activity is the movement we do when we hit the gym, walk the dog, go skiing, or play racquetball. These activities are important for the social aspects of group activities and the freedom to think creatively in individual activities. More so, movement is crucial as it offers multiple health benefits.

Physical activity:

The non-planned physical activity of daily living also counts toward these desirable health outcomes.

We all know people that seem like they can eat anything and everything, and are always lean. The ones that you think have a fast metabolism. In reality, their metabolism isn’t faster, they just move more. They burn more calories due to non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). Chances are, they are fidgety, or maybe they are the kind of people that never seem to sit down. NEAT is the energy expended in all movement that is not planned exercise, during sleep, or while eating. NEAT includes movement while at work, doing chores at home, and, as I mentioned, fidgeting. Essentially, it is the energy expended in everyday activities.

In 2020, the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP), the Public Health Agency of Canada, Queen’s University, and ParticipACTION teamed up and released the new 24-Hour Movement Guidelines. They developed toolkits for 0 – 4 years old, 5 – 17, 18 – 64 and 65+ age groups, as well as special populations. The guidelines stress making every hour count. The new guide points out that all movement matters and highlights the importance of interrupting sedentary behaviour with light activity and even standing.

The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for 18 – 64-year-olds are:

The new guidelines highlight the importance of trading sedentary behaviour for additional movement. So how do we do this? Charles Duhigg describes the habit loop as a cue (prompt) which triggers a routine (behaviour) that leads to a reward. We can use the habit loop to help us add a new movement habit. For instance, an easy prompt is the notification feature on smartwatches and activity trackers that reminds you to move. Your watch buzzes, you stand up and walk around, and the reward is feeling better. 

Another behaviour change technique that can help you add more movement into your day is habit stacking. With habit stacking, you use a habit that you already do consistently and tack a new behaviour onto it. To do this, we can use BJ Fogg’s recipe card for adding tiny habits into our current routines. The recipe features the anchor, the new behaviour, and includes the celebration because change happens best when a positive emotion is attached. 

BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits Method recipe card:

After I … I will … To wire the habit into my brain, I will immediately.

In general, our morning routines are the strongest habits we have. We do them day in and day out without much variance. Thinking about all the strong anchor habits you have, where can you add a new movement habit? For example: After I use the washroom, I will walk a lap in the hallway. After I put the kettle on for tea, I will perform five counter push-ups. The more specific your recipe, the better. 

We could also take advantage of all the time we spend waiting. While standing in a queue, why not perform some calf raises? Momentarily feeling silly is a small trade-off for sculpted calves and improved health. If you need a visual to help guide you to the best places to insert new movement habits, consider writing down what you usually do over a 24 hour period in half-hour increments. Look for opportunities to stack a new habit. 

For this week, think about your current routines and habits. Consider where the opportunities for more movement are. Utilize the habit loop and habit stacking. Remember to start easy, start very small, and alter your environment to support the desired behaviour change. It is important to set yourself up for success.

Consider implementing one of these possible options, or think of another option that is more relevant to you:

Pick one option to add more movement into your day. Stack it by using an anchor habit. Work towards consistency and automation. 

If you have any questions regarding nutrition coaching and behaviour change, contact Catherine at catherine@westcoastconditioning.ca 


Benefits of Physical Activity. (2020, December 02). Retrieved January 28, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm

CANADIAN 24-HOUR MOVEMENT GUIDELINES. (n.d.). Retrieved January 28, 2021, from https://csepguidelines.ca/

Department of Health & Human Services. (2012, July 09). Physical activity – it’s important. Retrieved January 28, 2021, from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/physical-activity-its-important

Duhigg, C. (2014). The power of habit: Why we do what we do in life and business. New York, NY: Random House Trade Paperbacks.

Fogg, B. J. (2020). Tiny habits: The small changes that change everything. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.