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How can I set health and fitness goals?

Lisa Palmer
Marriage & Family Therapy

All diet and health plans seem to work, it's a matter of putting them to work! One thing is having the knowledge about balanced nutrition and fitness, and the other is convincing ourselves to resist the urge to be led astray! This seem to be the biggest difficultly people have, since our minds can so easily trick us into doing the opposite of what we planned to do!

Here are some more quick tips for setting and maintaining your health and fitness goals. 

  • Imagine a miracle happening where all of a sudden you feel healthier and more fit. What do you look like? What do you experience? What would it mean for you in your life and relationships? Perhaps you would feel a greater sense of freedom, peace, happiness, love. Think about how achieving your health goals would enhance the quality of your other aspects of your life. For instance, perhaps you would be able to do something you haven't been able to do in a while, enjoy more activities with your child, feel more confident socially!
  • It's always beneficial to think about the consequences if you do not set these health and fitness goals for yourself!
  • It is also important to recognize the habits that keep you in stuck vicious cycles. Consider what habits and routines you may need to "delete" or "modify" that are not in alignment with your new goals and wishes.
  • When setting health and fitness goals, think of what you will do, and not just about what you won't do. Consider what wish or need your goal is in alignment with. For instance, "I will take vitality walks daily and this is in alignment with my need for freedom, health, and balance."
  • Dont set yourself up to give up! Give yourself a daily dose of reality checking, and commit to "going slow". Society often convinces us that we can accomplish big projects and tasks in short periods of time. Be realistic and embrace the process on your way to the destination. Thinking that you will achieve your goal faster than is possible will only set you up for feeling bad that you haven't achieved the impossible! 
  • Remember "food and mood" usually don't go well together. When we use food to change mood, it can be a potion for sabotaging any health and fitness goals you have set! It might be helpful to put together your own coaching team consisting of a nutritionist, personal trainer, and psychotherapist specializing in eating disorders to help you reach your full potential with your goals and stay on track!
As a society we place too much emphasis on outer appearance and less on the more valuable results of fitness like longevity, better health, and increased physical capabilities. When you measure your success by more than a number on the scale, you will greater appreciate the rewards of your fitness efforts. What is something you want to accomplish? Is it completing a 5K? Making it to the summit on a hike? Playing with your children/grandchildren? Setting goals that are important to YOU will increase your chance of success. Get in the habit of rewarding yourself for completing the healthy behaviors, instead of only when you reach your goal.
Setting health and fitness goals is an important first step in any exercise program. To begin, decide what your final outcome is to be. Do you want to lose a certain amount of weight? Are you looking to improve the efficiency of your heart and lungs? Whatever your ultimate goal is, write it down. Now that you know where you want to be, decide how long it will take you to reach that goal, keeping in mind that you will probably need 8-12 weeks to begin to notice any changes. Write down the date you plan on reaching your ultimate goal. You're not done yet! Decide on some smaller, more attainable goals to help get you to the end. For example: The ultimate goal is to lose 25 pounds in six months. Smaller goals could be 1 pound in the first week, 5 pounds by the end of four weeks, 8 pounds by the holidays, etc. Be sure to make these goals realistic to keep yourself motivated.

Goal setting is vital to successful progression and completion of a program. A good acronym to use to make this is easy are SMART goals, which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Here is what they mean:

Specific

  • A specific goal is one that is clearly defined in such a way that anyone could understand what the intended outcome is. Goals should contain a detailed description of what is to be accomplished; when  do you want to accomplish it by; and the action(s) that will be taken to accomplish it.

Measurable

  • Goals need to be quantifiable. Establish a way to assess the progress toward each goal. If a goal cannot be measured, a it cannot be manage. For example, “I want to look better” is not measurable, but “to reduce body fat by 5% in 12 weeks” is measurable.

Attainable

  • Attainable goals are the right mix of goals that are challenging, but not extreme. Goals that are too easily accomplished do not stretch abilities. That said you should be able to reach them.

Realistic

  • To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which an individual is both willing and able to work. A goal is probably realistic if the individual truly believes that it can be accomplished.

Timely

  • A goal should always have a specific date of completion. The date should be realistic, but not too distant in the future. For example, set goals that can be achieved tomorrow and in 3 months.
All fitness goals start with asking yourself what you really want not only out of fitness but out of life. Is your energy level important to you? Do you want to be a lot more active, a little more active or just start to move? Do you want to get to a point where being in physical situations is not only fun but exciting and you can exude confidence? All of these goals make the biggest difference in a persons overall quality of life. The best news is that in spite of whatever your experience has been up to this point in the "fitness" world it all can be reshaped based on the goals you set and the desires that you have. Fitness can add an element to life that money can never buy. Fitness can bring freedom that can not be duplicated. To set fitness goals start by asking yourself what you want and then ask specifically how to get there. The what you want we can't answer but the how to get there we can handle.
One way to set health and fitness goals is to break them up into daily, short-term and long-term goals. For example, if you were preparing to run a 10k race six months from today, your daily goal might be to run 5 minutes without stopping to walk. Your short-term goal (1 to 3 months) may be to run the race at a 10 minute pace per mile, and your long-term goal (6 months and up) may be to lose 10 pounds by race day. You might have many mini-goals throughout the process and milestones to achieve along the way. A surefire way to success is to remember to choose goals that are realistic and attainable.  

Effective health and fitness goals stem from the acronym SMART. SMART refers to Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.

  • Specific: A specific goal is one that contains a detailed description of what your want to accomplish; when you want to accomplish it; and the action(s) you will be take to accomplish it.
  • Measurable: Goals need to be quantifiable. If your goal cannot be measured, you cannot manage it. For example, “I want to look better” is not measurable, but “to reduce body fat by 5% in 12 weeks” is measurable.
  • Attainable: Attainable goals are the right mix of goals that are challenging, but not extreme.
  • Realistic: To be realistic, your goal must be something you’re both willing and able to do.
  • Timely: Your goal should always have a specific end date.

Congratulations on making the commitment to yourself and taking charge of your body. First, see your health care provider to get a medical clearance/physical and an understanding of your current health and general fitness. From that appointment you can build the foundation of your program. Depending on your goals, start with a 12 week plan to allow the effect of your training to come to fruition.  When setting a 12 week goal, also set shorter term goals such as 2 week goals.  To be helpful these goals should be measurable, and realistic in your ability to achieve them. 

Remember, goal setting is a tool or a guideline for measuring results.  If your goal is not reached, it is not failure, but offers the ability to analyze what work and what adjustments need to be made. The primary success of your goal setting will require perseverant and commitment.

For the best result, working with a sharecare Elite/Nasm OptTrainer will be a great of value in helping set your program and achieving your health and fitness goals.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.