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Exercise and Set SMART goals to get fit
Each year starts off the same - with goals and resolutions that we hope to achieve, but that we often fall short of completing.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines, individuals should get at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of both. Aim to incorporate strength-training exercises of all the major muscle groups into your fitness routine at least twice a week.
It's great to know what the goals should be, however, how do we achieve those goals on a regular basis?
Here are some strategies to motivate you and keep you on the path to achieving your health and wellness goals:
1. Set SMART goals
Regardless of whether your goal is to lose weight, walk or run a 5K, or finish a marathon, remember to make your goals SMART.
SMART goals are:
- Attainable or achievable
For example, a SMART goal when starting a new exercise routine might be to walk 10 minutes, 5 days a week during your lunch break. Don’t be too ambitious at first; start with simple goals and then progress to longer range goals. Write down your goals where you are likely to see them. This can help set you up for success!
2. Make it fun
Find sports or activities that you enjoy. If you're not enjoying your workouts, try something different. Join a sports league. Take a dancing class. Check out a gym or a yoga studio. Remember, exercise doesn't have to be boring, and you're more likely to stick with a fitness program if you're having fun.
3. Make physical activity part of your daily routine
Schedule workouts as you would any other important daily activity. You can also integrate physical activity throughout the day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park your car farther away in the parking lot. Take a walk during a break at work. Walk in place, pedal a stationary bike, or do strength training exercises while you watch TV at night.
4. Track your progress
You may also find it helps to keep an exercise diary or use a web-based tracker or app like FitBit or My Fitness Pal. Record what you did during each exercise session, how long you exercised and how you felt afterward. Recording your exercise efforts and tracking your progress can help you work toward your goals, and remind you that you are making progress.
5. Show yourself compassion
We all stumble and we all have an “off” day. If you're too busy to work out or simply don't feel up to it, take a day or two off. Be gentle with yourself and listen to your body. The important thing is to not let an off day derail you completely. When this happens, get back on track as soon as you can.
6. Reward yourself
After exercising, take a few minutes to acknowledge the good feelings that exercise gives you. This is called an internal reward because it does not depend on others. This can be the most powerful type of reward and can help you make a long-term commitment to regular exercise.
External rewards can help, too; these types of rewards may be material or financial. For example, when you reach a goal, you may treat yourself to a new pair of walking shoes, a new workout outfit, or music to enjoy while you exercise.
Remember, every day is a new opportunity to make healthy lifestyle choices. You do not need to wait until the first of the month or the start of a new week. Be mindful of your intentions and goals you set, and have fun!
Rita Karapurkar Williams, MA, CHES, is a Health Coach with Beebe. She has a master’s degree in health education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and is a certified health education specialist.