How to Set Fitness Goals

Published: October 26, 2021

How to Set Fitness Goals

Cooler weather is here, which means many of us are spending more time indoors. And that begins the annual cycle that we get caught up in: Cooler weather equals less time outside, equals less exercise, equals decreased motivation to get back into it. Throw in the winter holidays and all the great food, and it’s no wonder people make resolutions every Jan. 1 to get back into shape.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Any time of the year, we can set reasonable goals for ourselves to make fitness a part of our life in all seasons. “Reasonable” is the key word – older adults sometimes want to jump right in and do things they did when they were younger. That often leads to frustration or injury. Be realistic about not just your current condition and abilities, but also the goals you want to achieve.

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) offers these guidelines and resources to help you get going – and stay going. Before you start any exercise program, check first with your doctor.

Write down your short-term fitness goals

Short-term goals will help you make physical activity a regular part of your daily life. Make sure your short-term goals will really help you be active. Here are a few examples:

  • Today, I will decide to be more active.
  • Tomorrow, I will find out about exercise classes in my area.
  • By the end of this week, I will talk with a friend about exercising with me a couple of times a week.

Write down your long-term fitness goals

After you write down your short-term goals, you can go on to identify your long-term goals. Focus on where you want to be in six months, a year, or two years from now. Long-term goals also should be realistic, personal, and important to you. Here are a few examples:

  • By this time next year, I will swim five laps three times a week.
  • Next summer, I will be able to play pitch and catch with my grandchildren.
  • In six months, I will have my blood pressure under control by increasing my physical activity and following my doctor’s advice.

Create an activity plan

Some people find that writing an exercise and physical activity plan helps them keep their promise to be active, while others can plunge into a new project without planning ahead. If you choose to make a plan, again, be sure it’s realistic for you to do, especially as you gain experience in how to be active.

Check out the interactive Activity Planner from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services’ “Move Your Way” fitness campaign. It lets you build a weekly physical activity plan and then print it out. You can choose from a variety of fun and exciting endurance (aerobic) and strength exercises, personalize your activities by location and purpose, and decide how much of each exercise you will do. Once you create your plan, don’t forget to add in balance and flexibility exercises.

Review and update your exercise plan regularly

Regularly review and update your plan and long-term goals so that you can gradually build on your success. You may find that things like vacation or illness can interrupt your physical activity routine. Don’t get discouraged! You can start exercising again and be successful. You can use a Weekly Exercise and Physical Activity Plan to write down your activities.

Source: National Institute on Aging