How to Set Exercise Goals for Success

You don’t have to run a 5K every day just be active, a brisk walk would do the trick.

By: Lisa Sanborn, Lead Exercise Physiologist

Are you already frustrated and discouraged that you have not kept up with your New Year’s Resolution to exercise more or lose weight? Most likely you probably set too grand of a goal and gave up because it wasn’t attainable and you didn’t see results.

When setting goals for exercise and a healthier lifestyle you should set attainable goals. Making the decision to exercise more, lose weight, or lead a healthier lifestyle is applauded; Exercise provides significant benefits for both mind and body. And with that, comes time. Don’t be discouraged that you aren’t seeing change overnight. It’s important to make both long-term and short-term goals. By setting small goals with rewards along the way, you’ll have more success achieving your ultimate goal. This helps keep you on task and decreases potential frustration and discouragement.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 minutes of physical activity most, if not all, days of the week. However, if you are just starting an exercise program this might be too much to achieve. You don’t have to run a 5k every day just be active, when a brisk walk would do the trick. When starting an exercise program; you should start with 30 minutes each day, 3 days per week and gradually build up as you are physically able. Also, start with a type of exercise that is easy for you, such as walking. Exercise should not feel hard or hurt your body.

If doing 30 minutes at a time is too hard, break that up into 2 bouts of 15 minutes. Once this gets easier, start by adding more time to your workout, then eventually add another day each week. As the exercise starts to feel easy, start increasing your intensity. Our bodies adapt to exercise, so we need to continue challenging it over time.

For your first month, set a goal of exercising 3 days per week. Once you achieve that goal, reward yourself with a new pair of shoes, a massage, a pedicure or something else to pamper yourself. If you miss a day, or a few days, don’t get discouraged just start over the next day or the next week. Set a new goal each month, a small goal leading up to the ultimate goal. The best thing is to make time for yourself to achieve your goals. Find a friend or exercise buddy that has similar goals because this can help you stay honest and you’ll motivate each other to keep your goals.

Keep in mind that change doesn’t happen overnight. You are making a lasting lifestyle change for a healthier you!

Meriter Women’s HeartCare offers a comprehensive cardiovascular program designed especially for women by women. To learn more, call 608.417.6447 or visit

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4 Responses to How to Set Exercise Goals for Success

  1. How do I get motivated to START. I just can’t seem to get out of my slump. Part of it is the weather. I have a treadmill but I want to be outside!

    • Meriter says:

      Getting started can be equally as difficult as keeping motivated. This winter has been especially difficult for getting outdoors because the temperatures can be dangerously cold at times. If you are going to exercise on your treadmill until the weather starts warming up, you could locate it near a TV near a window, so you could look outside while you walk, giving you the sensation of being outdoors. Another thought would be to locate your treadmill near a TV, that way you could watch your favorite show while you exercise. Set aside the time in your day for your exercise, don’t allow yourself to make excuses, just change your clothes, put on your tennis shoes and get started.–Lisa Sanborn

  2. Jean says:

    I’m walking inside at work during the week but on the weekends I just don’t have motivation to walk or work out. I need help staying motivated on the weekends. What do I do?

    • Meriter says:

      Good for you for being active during the week and walking regularly. Have you ever considered wearing a pedometer to track your steps or one of the newer fitness trackers, such as a Fitbit, Jawbone, or Nike Fuelband? They are ways to track your activity and keep you motivated to move every day of the week. The goal is to average 10,000 steps per day. –Lisa Sanborn

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