Goal Setting Boosts Your Chances of Exercise Success

By Claire Bunton

Goal Setting Boosts Your Chances of Exercise Success

No matter when you decide to up your activity levels and how you wish to do so, goal setting is crucial to successfully incorporate exercise into your life; whether you simply want to lead a healthier lifestyle or you are a top athlete, goal setting is equally important. Just saying to yourself that you will do more exercise is rarely enough to make it a lasting habit. Whether you have already made changes towards a more active lifestyle or this is something you’re about to embark, following these tips for effective goal setting will help to maximize your chance of making exercise a regular part of your week .

SMART goals

When it comes to goal setting, SMART goals are most useful. If you’re not familiar with this concept, this stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time specific. To show how this works, we’ll use the example of someone who wants to incorporate walking into their week.


Specific: The more detail you can give to your goals, the better the chance you have of sticking to them, as you know exactly what you have to do. In this instance, you may decide that you will walk for 20 minutes each day you are at work by taking a walk in your lunch break. You should also think about any help you may need to achieve this goal, so if you know you do best when you exercise in company, why not see whether any of your co-workers want to join you? Equally think about any barriers that might get in the way and how to manage them, which in this example might be keeping your diary as free as possible around lunchtime to give you the best chance of having the time for a walk.

Measurable: To check your progress you need to decide how to measure whether you are achieving what you set out to do in your plan. Keeping a note in your diary or on your calendar of the exercise you do each day is one helpful way to do this; when walking you might also like to use a pedometer to count the steps you do each day and record this information. At the end of each week you can look back at your diary or calendar and see what you achieved.

Attainable: Your goals shouldn’t be too difficult to meet or you will soon lose motivation. If you would ultimately like to walk for an hour every day, but you currently do no activity, it’s not a good idea to aim for this at the outset. This is why smaller steps are more achievable, so once you manage to walk for 20 minutes on five days of the week, you could look at building that up to perhaps 30 minutes every day.

Realistic: You should only set a goal that is achievable and one that you are willing and able to work towards without putting unnecessary pressure on yourself. If you hate the gym, but had set this as a goal, while it’s good exercise you would have soon lost motivation. Not only can this have a negative impact on your mood and hamper your chance of future successes, but you might try to cope with setbacks using high risk supplements to try to make up for what you haven’t achieved through exercise.

Time specific: You’re more likely to meet a goal that has a time frame attached to it. In this case, you may decide for the first month you will complete and record the initial plan you set for walking and then all being well, you will up your activity and at the same time decide when you will next review your goal.


One thing that this acronym for goal setting doesn’t take into account is rewards. Recognizing your achievements and giving yourself a pat on the back by way of a small token is another way to reinforce your motivation. However, it’s important that the treat reflects the cause, as for all we often think about items of food and drink as a reward, when aiming for a healthy lifestyle these are usually not a good idea. It could be as simple as allowing yourself the time to have a relaxing soak in the bath, take part in a hobby you enjoy or meet up with friends; you may alternatively wish to treat yourself to an item such as magazine or a massage. As you can see, these rewards don’t need to be expensive and you usually get most benefit from treating yourself often; perhaps consider doing so at the end of each week you stick to your exercise plan. However, to recognize bigger achievements, such as when you manage to keep up the overall goal you were aiming for, you may wish to think of a treat that reflects this.

Learn from mistakes

Just as it’s important to consider rewards, it’s important to think how you will deal with slip-ups when you don’t manage to stick to your plan of action. While you will no doubt feel disappointed with yourself, it’s important to recognize your achievements so far, instead of focusing on what has gone wrong. This way you’re less likely to abandon your efforts. However, at the same time it’s essential to take a look at why things didn’t go quite to plan and learn from these, as this gives you a good chance of preventing the same slip-ups in future.