Use Nudge Theory To Improve Your Health And Fitness

In their book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness authors Thaler and Sunstein describe a nudge as:

 “Any aspect of choice architecture that alters people's behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives.”

One of the most famous examples occurs at Amsterdam Schiphol airport where the image of a black fly was etched into the male urinals just to the left of the drain. Turns out men can’t resist having something to aim at. The result: an 80% reduction in spillage. Well done boys!

Of course the same concept can be applied to health and fitness decisions.

In a recent BBC documentary foot shaped stickers were placed all the way up a staircase sandwiched between two escalators in a busy train station. The number of commuters using the staircase surged after the stickers were installed. So simple!

The reason nudges work is because they appeal to our automatic brain which is designed to trigger quick and reliable action. Nudges clear a path towards a particular decision which our automatic brain simply follows. No need for conscious intervention!

Whilst the previous examples stem from outside influence there are plenty of nudges you can self-install to increase the likelihood of healthy decisions winning out over unhealthy alternatives.

  • Switching to smaller plates
  • Emptying cupboards of sugary treats
  • Pre-preparing and batch cooking healthy meals
  • Using a checklist when food shopping
  • Food shopping at a farmers market
  • Creating a realistic workout schedule
  • Laying out your workout gear the night before
  • Partnering with a friend or coach for accountability
  • Creating a designated workout area at home / joining the gym at work
  • Parking further away from work / getting off the train a station early
  • Purchasing a stand-up desk

There will be more! What nudges can you install to make the healthy decision the easy decision?