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Every year, we celebrate the New Year; we set new goals and envision what the upcoming year will bring. A very common goal for individuals during this time is a goal to improve their health. Goals to improve nutrition, lose weight, exercise more, tone up or join a gym may sound all too familiar. These are all great goals for your health, however, more specifications should be considered when striving for your new year’s resolutions.
First, when setting goals, make sure your goal is S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely). Individuals tend to set goals that are unrealistic and not specific enough to measure. For example, if you set a goal to “lose 15 pounds”, how will you achieve this goal? What is the time frame you hope to achieve this goal by? What resources will help you toward this goal? Instead, using the SMART acronym, structure your goals like this:
- Specific (What exactly do you want to do?) – I want to lose 15 pounds of weight to improve my health and be in the healthy weight category for my age and height.
- Measureable (How can I tell if I reached my goal?) – Each week I will total my minutes of physical activity and I will weigh myself to track my progress.
- Attainable (Is this something I can accomplish?) – I will lose 15 pounds by changing my diet habits and exercising regularly.
- Realistic – Over 10 weeks, I aim to lose 1-2 pounds each week to meet my total 15 pound goal.
- Timely (Establish timeframe for meeting this goal.) – By the end of 10 weeks, I will have increased my physical activity and lost a total of 15 pounds.
When setting physical activity goals, in addition to setting a S.M.A.R.T. goal, think about how much physical activity you should be getting each week. The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of the both to equal 150 minutes or more each week. Align your goals to meet, if not exceed this recommendation. Additionally, think about incorporating aerobic (i.e. running, walking, swimming) activity and resistance (i.e. weight training, resistance bands, self-weight exercises) activity in your goal, as both have important health benefits. If you are new to exercise, consult with your physician or an exercise professional before beginning. For information about improving your daily diet, visit the Choose MyPlate website.
Although January may be a time to evaluate your current health and fitness levels, think of how you can work towards a behavior change that will last a lifetime. Choosing activities you like and thinking about why health is important to you, will help align your goals towards success.