Exercise Overview
Chances are good that at least once a year-in January, perhaps?-you vow to commit to an exercise program. If you've had some trouble with the f...

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Setting Your Fitness Goals

Chances are that at least once a year you vow to commit to an exercise program. If you’ve had some trouble with the follow-through, you’re certainly in good company. Yet there are so many compelling reasons to make the commitment again and stick with it.

Everyone has a different reason for losing momentum. The bottom line is that if getting fit is important to you, it’s never too late to begin a fitness regimen. You can fit in a day’s workout in less time than it takes to watch the nightly news. In fact, you can do it while you watch the news. If you follow the recommendations of organizations such as the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), what you need to improve your heart health and reduce your risk of all kinds of other diseases is a total of 150 minutes of exercise per week. When and how you fit these minutes into your regular routine is entirely up to you.

So start today, and use these tips to help you make exercise part of your routine.

Set a SMART Goal

According to ACE, a SMART goal is one that is specific, measurable, attainable, and relevant. Also, the goal must be one that is bound by a deadline, or done in a specific amount of time.

Meeting goals is satisfying, and fitness experts say it helps build momentum. Just pay close attention to the “attainable” part of this equation. An unrealistic goal only sets you up to fail. Instead of challenging yourself to exercise daily for 30 minutes when on some days you can’t even get in 15, look at your schedule and find two days that you can realistically boost your workout time to 30 minutes. It all adds up to get you toward your goal of 150 minutes for the week.

Vow to Take More Steps Every Day

For nearly a decade, public health experts at the CDC have urged Americans to take 10,000 steps every day. But we’re falling short. A 2004 study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that a typical American woman takes just 5,210 steps a day, and a man takes around 7,000. Incidentally, the 10,000 mark comes out to about five miles a day, and people who walk that much are considered “active.” Those who get in 12,500 steps a day are “highly active.”

Even if weight loss isn’t your goal, you should still aim to increase your daily mileage to achieve or maintain overall good health. In a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers asked healthy young men to significantly reduce the number of steps they took each day. They dropped from an average of 6,203 to 1,344 steps a day. Within two weeks the subjects’ insulin levels rose by nearly 60 percent, putting them at risk for diabetes. Their amounts of abdominal fat increased by seven percent even though they hadn’t gained any overall weight.

Make Fitness a Lifestyle, Not a Fad

Many people make the mistake of going hard toward fitness goals, but slacking off once they’ve been achieved. They see fitness as a means to an end, not a way to live their life. This can lead to health problems and weight gain. Failing to see fitness as a lifestyle choice means you won’t reap the long-term benefits of regular exercise.

Sure, exercise can help you lose weight in the short term. But an active lifestyle provides lasting benefits. It can reduce your risk for potential health complications like high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease, and contributes to better overall health and wellbeing. 

Written by: Dana Sullivan Kilroy
Edited by:
Medically Reviewed by: George Krucik, MD, MBA
Published: Sep 10, 2014
Published By: Healthline Networks, Inc.
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