How to Set Healthy, Achievable Fitness Goals
It’s no secret that exercise is vital to health—preventing chronic disease, reducing stress and adding to your overall well-being. But it can difficult to know how to get started, especially if you’ve never exercised before.
“To create an exercise program that’s healthy and sustainable, it’s important to set fitness goals that are realistic and specific to your individual needs,” says Virtua fitness specialist Robyn Caruso.
This is her best advice for creating effective, custom fitness programs with realistic goals.
Set Small Steps Toward Big Goals
A critical piece in setting fitness goals is to set small, incremental steps, instead of one huge goal. Caruso warns against trying to “jump from point A to point Z.” Instead of saying, “'My goal is to work out an hour every day.' Set a goal to work out 30 minutes a day, 2-3 days a week. It’s important to hit small goals on your way to your larger one,” she says.
When people try to push for a huge goal, “Nine times out of 10, it ends in failure because it’s overwhelming and unachievable,” says Caruso. “A lot of people get discouraged, and they stop working out.”
Measure Success in More Than Pounds and Inches
There are also lots of different ways to measure fitness. Weight loss and endurance are common markers. Caruso also recommends measures like walking further, standing longer, feeling less pain, or sleeping better. She says, “We have people work toward activity goals to see if they can do things they may have never done before.”
For some people, a goal can be as simple as reaching up to take something off a shelf, or sustaining an activity like walking or jogging for one minute. Another common goal is to have more stamina, flexibility and strength—or even more energy to keep up with kids or grandkids,” she said.
Create Unique Goals
At Virtua, Caruso works with individuals to create unique goals. In an initial session at the Virtua Fitness Center, Caruso takes measurements like blood pressure, body fat, weight and heart rate, and then discusses the person’s exercise history. After the initial assessment, they spend time together on the fitness floor to help people find exercises that will work for them. She can help someone get back on track with a past routine, or go in a different direction if they have new or different needs because of illness, injury or age.
Honor the Individual Fitness Journey
Everybody has different needs and abilities, which is why setting realistic fitness goals against individual markers, not someone else’s standard, is necessary. “It’s important not to compete against other people,” Caruso said. “Fitness is a journey that is different for everybody.”
Updated June 6, 2016