Set an Exercise Goal & Make a Plan

If you’re ready to start getting active, it’s time to set goals and make a plan.

Remember to start small if you haven’t been active in a while; you don’t want to overwhelm or hurt yourself.

Set a Goal

When you think of a physical activity goal, make sure you consider three points:

  1. What activity will you do and for how long? Be specific.
  2. How often/when will you do this?
  3. Is your goal realistic? Don’t try to change too much at once!

Here is an example of a goal that includes the three points above:

Four days each week I will take a 10-minute brisk walk during the lunch hour (since I don’t really need the whole hour to eat).

Notice that the activity goal is not “I’ll walk more” or “I’ll be healthier”. Those goals are not specific enough.

Put It in Writing

Writing goals down can help. Put them in a place where you will see them often—on the refrigerator, your bathroom mirror, or in your purse or wallet.

In addition to setting goals, plan ahead to set yourself up for success.

Make sure you answer the questions below so you have a full plan and back-up plan when it comes to your new routine.

Where am I now?
Example: I am mostly sedentary. The most exercise I get is housework or yard work once a week.

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My Goal(s) Are:
Example: Four days each week I will take a 15-minute brisk walk during the lunch hour since I don’t really need the whole hour to eat.


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Here's what I need to get ready:
Example: I need to bring my walking shoes and socks to work so I’ll have something comfortable to walk in.


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This might come up, and get in the way of my plan:
Example: I might have a meeting during my lunch hour.


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If that happens, I’ll do this instead:
Example: I’ll take a walk after dinner with my spouse or a friend.


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Here’s when I’ll start working toward my goal:
Example: I’ll start next Monday. 


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Here’s when and how I’ll reward myself. (Try to stay away from rewards that involve food.):
Example: I’ll go to the movies if I stick to my plan for the next month.


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Once you’ve reached your first goal(s), remember to set another one:
Example: I will increase the time I walk at lunch to 20 minutes each day and I’ll add a 20-minute walk to my routine on the weekends. 

How Did You Do?

As time goes on, make sure you revisit your goals and evaluate how you are doing.

  • Did you succeed?
  • Did you set your sights too high?
  • Did something happen in your life to keep you from being successful?

If you weren't successful, don't give up!

Revise your goals to make them more realistic and try again.

  • Last Reviewed: December 17, 2013
  • Last Edited: December 18, 2013

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