Setting fitness goals is a great way to maximize your health and physical fitness. But, as anyone who has ever made a New Year’s resolution probably knows, sticking to a lofty goal can be far harder than setting the goal in the first place. Weight loss is a classic example. In theory, dropping 10-15 excess pounds sounds like a great idea, requiring a modicum of effort. In reality, people often find that achieving weight loss—and keeping it off—is far easier said than done.
Fortunately, setting and achieving fitness goals is arguably easier. No one enjoys being hungry, or irritable, or engaging in self-denial. But working out can actually be enjoyable. It can be fun. The trick is to find a workout that appeals to you so you’ll look forward to doing it again, rather than dreading it. The beauty of exercise is that it eventually becomes its own reward. People who exercise regularly tend to view their workouts as a reward, rather than an obligation or some sort of self-imposed punishment.
Set Your Goal
The trick is to find an exercise routine that really works for you. Do it long enough to get past the resistance phase, and you just may find that you’re finally eager to do it all over again. The first step, then, is to decide what you wish to achieve. Do you want to simply log a set number of steps daily? A wearable fitness tracker can help you set and achieve such goals by tracking the number of steps taken each day. Recent research out of Scotland suggests that to enjoy significant cardiovascular benefits, including a lower risk of heart attack and stroke, you should strive to walk at least 15,000 steps per day.
But the reality is that any time spent moving—rather than sitting—is beneficial. In fact, being sedentary, also described as simply spending prolonged periods sitting—is a new, independent risk factor for heart disease. If your work requires you to sit for long stretches each day, consider getting up and walking around every two hours or so, just to get your blood flowing and your muscles moving.
Any Movement Counts
Many people point to a lack of time in their schedules to fit in meaningful exercise. But, again, this viewpoint, while perhaps valid, probably underestimates the value of small changes that can be made to introduce more activity into your day. Park at the farthest reaches of the lot, for instance; take the stairs instead of the elevator; vacuum the house thoroughly, and with glee; walk the dog and let him take his time sniffing to his heart’s content; walk the aisles of your grocery store (declining to ride in any motorized conveyance); get a walk-behind mower and put your riding mower in mothballs, etc.
If you are someone who does better with peer pressure, or simply with group support, consider taking an organized exercise class, a yoga class, or joining a running, biking or swimming club. The goal is to find a form of exercise you enjoy enough to want to keep doing it on a regular, routine basis. Don’t beat yourself up if circumstances force you to miss a class, a run, or a swim. Just get back to your routine as soon as you’re able and enjoy your exercise for how good it makes you feel not only afterwards, but in the moment.
Some people do well entirely on their own, while others thrive on structure. Hire a personal trainer if you think it will help. Invest in a gym or pool membership. Join a tennis club. Find a golf partner. Whatever it takes. Embrace activity and your fitness goals will take care of themselves.