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Make Your Exercise Goals SMART!

Photo of workout plan and equipment

For many adults, getting in daily exercise can be a challenge. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and 2 days of muscle strengthening. Whether you struggle with motivation or finding the time to move, SMART goals can help you start and maintain a new fitness plan.

What are SMART Goals?

SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. This can help you make goals that will easily fit into your life and will set you up for success. As you think of a good exercise goal for you, think through the SMART acronym.

Specific: Your goal should tell you the who, what, when, where and why. For example, “exercise more” is not specific. However, “take a 30-minute morning walk around the neighborhood 5x/week” has all the information you need to know. Is your goal specific?

Measurable: How are you tracking your progress? How will you measure your success? Find a way to track which days you are successful in meeting your goal, such as in a calendar or in your phone.

Achievable: Is your goal realistic? For example, if you are not already a runner, it may not make sense to make your goal to run every day. Instead, try to work up to that and make it your goal to run a few times a week. Start small and set yourself up for success!

Relevant: This goal should be important to you! Whether your motivation is keeping up with your kids, or improving your lab values, make sure your goal is motivating to you.

Time-Bound: Give yourself a deadline! For many people, deadlines are great motivation to get to work.

Example of a SMART Goal:

I will take a 30-minute walk during my lunch break 5x/week. I will track my progress on my phone calendar and hope to meet this goal by the end of the year. This goal will improve my cardiovascular health and help me keep up with my kids better!

Specific: This goal gives the “what”, “where” and “when”.

Measurable: This goal uses a phone calendar to track the progress.

Achievable:  If a 30 minute walk is physically do-able, then this seems achievable. You can always work your way up to your goal!

Relevant: This goal is important to help this person improve their health and to keep up with their kids.

Time-Bound: This goal has an end-date to help give a little push to get started today.

Other Goal Making Tips:

What if you do not already have a form of exercise you love? A great SMART goal for you would be to try a new type of exercise each week until you find something that you like. There are many online videos and other resources that can be a great way to try something new without spending any money.

For more on physical activity, check out our MOVE section for new ideas and safety tips.

Maggi Samson MS RDN LDN
October 17, 2022
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