by Rebecca Watson, Registered Physiotherapist
As we’re rolling into the new year, it can be time for many to set new resolutions for themselves – often centered around fitness and health! However, it can also be challenging to stay motivated and maintain a new exercise program. Many people tend to fall out of their new routine almost as soon as they start it, which is especially true during the coldest months of the year. It’s often much easier to stay home curled up in front of the television and tell ourselves that we’ll be more active again ‘once the weather is nicer’ or ‘starting again on Monday’. Surely there must be a better way to go about making the transition into a more active lifestyle… but it can be overwhelming trying to figure out where to start! Here we’ll dive deeper into a few things to keep in mind when creating goals for physical activity and strategies for helping you maintain these resolutions to shift towards a healthier lifestyle.
An important area to consider is goal setting – how do we set realistic and achievable goals for ourselves? Let’s take a closer look at each step of the SMART goals framework and how you can use this handy acronym to help you create a plan that’s best suited to your lifestyle.
Designing your goals in a specific way can make you more likely to accomplish them. For example, saying that “I will take the stairs every day at work rather than using the elevator” is much more specific than a general statement such as “I will be more physically active”.
Consider what outcomes you can use to measure whether or not you are reaching your goals. For example, creating a movement goal that for the next 30 days you will walk for half an hour per day at a brisk pace (measured by speed, distance, or heart rate).
It is important to set goals that are realistically achievable within a given timeframe. If our goals are not attainable, they can seem intimidating and we are much less likely to achieve them.
Set goals that are relevant to your needs and lifestyle! If you personally don’t enjoy running as a form of physical activity, don’t set a goal that you will run every day in the new year. Choose activities that you enjoy and are relevant to your personal fitness goals. In doing so, you will be much more likely to see it through.
Specific a timeframe or deadline for which you wish to complete your goals by. This helps hold us accountable to what we’ve set out to do and prioritize our goals, making us less likely to procrastinate.
When setting goals for yourself in the area of physical activity, it is helpful to keep in mind the recommended movement guidelines for Canadian adults (you can access these HERE). According to these guidelines, a healthy 24 hours includes getting 7-9 hours of good quality sleep, reducing sedentary time to 8 hours or less, and integrating regular physical activity throughout the day. This physical activity should include at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week, as well as as much light physical activities as possible throughout the day (such as standing or walking).
It’s especially important to make the mentality shift towards thinking about physical activity goals as a long-term lifestyle change, rather than a short term plan. It can take a little while to form a new habit, but dedication and consistency are the key to making the change to a healthier and more active lifestyle!