Many of us struggle with exercise, either starting something like a Pilates class and then stopping. . . or buying a treadmill and letting it collect dust. One way around these stops and starts is to set exercise goals. With workouts, as with other aspects of life, setting realistic, specific goals can substantially boost your chances of making a positive change. Many studies support this, proving that people who set goals are setting themselves up for success.
An Exercise Example
At Splendido, an all-inclusive community in Oro Valley for those 55 and better, Get Fit Coordinator Todd Lutz offers residents a goal-setting exercise along with ongoing fitness classes, and weight and cardio workouts. “At the beginning of the year, I’ll ask residents and staff if they’re interested in writing down some fitness goals for the year,” says Todd. “You’re much more likely to keep up regular fitness training when you have a goal to meet. Putting it in writing makes it a firm commitment.”
Several of the residents who set goals back in early January are still going strong. One of them is Jim Hester, 79, who—as of early October—is still performing a weekly workout routine he set up 10 months ago. Jim’s week includes:
- swimming 40 lengths of the pool, equal to 800 meters
- half an hour on the rowing machine, equal to 5 kilometers
- 1 circuit on the weight machines in the fitness center
- 2 hours of pool volleyball
“I break it up, but altogether I’m exercising four or four and half hours a week,” he says. “As a kind of discipline, I record what I did every day on a calendar,” he explains. “That calendar is there staring me in the face, and I don’t want to disappoint myself.”
Jim chose his exercise activities carefully, explaining, “One of the issues you face at our age is balance. I don’t worry about falling, but I am conscious of it—it’s so common among older people.” Swimming, rowing, and weight training all work your core muscles, and he says, “Maintaining balance means maintaining your core strength, and swimming and rowing both do that without stressing your joints.”
A Rediscovery & a Delight
Jim has exercised on and off for his entire life, but when he and his wife Darilyn moved to Splendido in February 2017, he says it was “a sort of rediscovery of some things, and a delight in realizing that I could go downstairs to the fitness center without having to go outside, get in the car, and drive to a gym.” He adds, “Removing those barriers made me feel like this could be a lot easier to do.”
At Splendido, Jim also rediscovered his love of swimming. “As a kid, I swam a lot, but this was the first time I’ve had access to a pool designed for swimming laps,” he says. “The first time I got in, I thought, ‘Oh, I remember this!’”
With goals set and monitored in writing, a love of swimming, and a commitment to maintaining his health, Jim is setting a great example of how to stay on track with regular exercise.
Tips for Setting Exercise Goals
If you’d like to follow Jim’s lead in setting and maintaining goals for exercise, follow these guidelines to help ensure your success:
1. Be specific. Take care in how you frame your goal and focus on action. Rather than saying you’re going to lose weight or reduce your blood pressure, choose exercises that will accomplish your target, and pinpoint the type of exercise and the timeframe, such as taking a brisk 30-minute walk every day.
2. Be realistic. Take your abilities and your availability into account. If you want to reduce your blood pressure by doing yoga every day, do you have time to do that? Do you have access to a class or a place to practice?
3. Write it down. Once you have a specific, realistic goal, write it down and keep it somewhere where you can see it. You may also find it helpful to log your progress or practice as Jim Hester does.
4. Tell others about it. Sharing your goal with your spouse or friends will help hold you accountable.
5. Schedule it. Literally put your exercise time in your calendar and treat it like an important meeting. This will help set your routine.
Whatever exercise goal you decide to get and work toward, keep your eye on the prize: better physical and emotional health, and the satisfaction of reaching an achievement.