by Carly M. Cooley, RDN, CPT
Are you looking to stay active and get healthy this year? Too few New Year’s resolutions ever really seem to be successful. Have you ever wondered what it is about the ones that stick? Let’s take a look at how to set health goals that work.
There are several different types of health-related goals you can have. Good health resolutions focus on at least one of these five pillars: body fat composition (think muscle vs fat and overall weight), resistance training (muscular strength & endurance), cardiovascular endurance, stability (balance), and flexibility. These five pillars of fitness work together to improve quality of life and, therefore, are a great focus for resolutions.
The best health resolution goals are “S.M.A.R.T.”:
Specific: Detailed. Instead of “exercise more,” list what type of exercise you will do (walk, go to the gym, etc.), location and at what time of day.
Measurable: Be clear about frequency and quantity. Instead of saying you will work out “more,” or eat “less,” or “lose weight,” use numbers you can keep track of. This will help you to see your progress.
Action-oriented: Clarify when you will start and how you will accomplish your goals. What steps will you take towards making your goals a reality, such as joining a gym or buying vegetables for every meal?
Realistic: Don’t go crazy on yourself, setting insane goals that are outside your abilities. One of the 60+-year-old members at my gym said, “Consider your overall abilities and physical health” before setting your goals. If you haven’t exercised in months or years, don’t sign up for a marathon or a seven-day lifting split. Start with a goal to run a 5k or create a three-times-per-week workout plan.
Time-oriented: Set a time frame for meeting your goals. Give yourself deadlines so that you can easily track your progress and maintain inspiration.
Ronnie, 69, said that once you have your SMART goals in place, “find your motivation and stay consistent.” He’s been going to the gym two to three times each week for decades, despite having a recent major orthopedic surgery!
Measure your progress. Keep yourself motivated. Each week that you succeed at moving toward your goal, consider it a winning week! Let that progress motivate and propel you forward.
Of course, you’ll hit roadblocks and speed bumps. Jim, 81, weighed 200 pounds five years ago when he decided to change his lifestyle. Added to the difficulty of getting healthy, he suddenly had to fight cancer as well. But he persevered. He hits the gym three times a day, eats more vegetables and lean meats, enjoys golf, and is now 160 energetic pounds. How did he stay on track with such big obstacles in the way? “I put it in my mind as priority number one and just stayed consistent,” he said.
Don’t let setbacks discourage you or get in the way of you meeting your goal. “Just get back to it,” said Sue, 67, “stay consistent, and each time you exercise, work just a little harder. The more you do it, the better you feel.”
Above all, if you’re going to meet your SMART resolutions, you must enjoy the journey. Find a friend, pick an activity you love, reward yourself for progress, enjoy the endorphins, and give it all you’ve got!
With these tips and strategies in mind, your new resolutions are sure to help you feel young, stay active, and get on the path to a healthier you.