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Exercise for Beginners - Setting Goals

Learn how to set your weight loss and fitness goals

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Updated October 27, 2010

If you're trying to lose, get healthy, build muscle or excel at a sport, you'll need SMART goals - Goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. When you don't have a specific goal, it's difficult to keep exercising and to track your progress to see how far you've come. Keep in mind that you can have a variety of goals - Losing weight, getting in a certain number of workouts, improving your health or even just making better choices every day. Before you start working out, take a moment and ask yourself these questions:

1. What do I want to accomplish with this exercise program?
2. Is my goal realistic and attainable?
3. Do I know how to reach my goal?
4. Do I have a timeline for reaching my goal?
5. How will I reward myself when I get there?

For example, is it reasonable to want to lose 50 pounds in 6 months? It's possible, but may not be reasonable unless you eat well and exercise every single day for the next 6 months. Weight loss is often harder than we think and it's usually slower as well. Experts recommend that you lose no more than 1-2 pounds per week, but it isn't likely that you'll lose 2 pounds every single week and many people find they actually lose about .5 to 1 pound on a good week. For more, check out How to Set Weight Loss Goals.

Keep in mind that:

  • The more weight you lose, the harder it will be to lose weight. The less weight your body has to move around, the fewer calories it will burn doing so.
  • The closer you get to your goal, the harder it is to reach it. There may be several reasons why you're not losing weight and being aware of those pitfalls can help you avoid them, or manage them when they happen.
  • The weight you can maintain may not be the weight you want to be. We all have an exercise threshold - The amount of exercise we can comfortably fit into our lives. We can often stretch that threshold, but it's important to know exactly where it is so you can decide if that's realistic for you.
  • The scale isn't always the best way to track progress. The scale won't tell you what you've lost and/or gained and, sometimes, it can even lie to you. Be sure to use other tools to track your progress.
  • Weight loss isn't the only goal you can have and may not even be the most motivating. Giving up the Weight Loss Obsession may be your first step to success.

After you set your goal, your next step is to find out how to reach it. If you want to lose weight or become better at a sport, you need to do some research to figure out where to start. Browse through these different goals to find out more about getting started:

It's helpful to know what you have to do before you get started. You may be surprised at the daily effort it takes to reach your goals and you may not realize that your body isn't ready for the amount of exercise you need to reach your goals. It takes time to build strength, endurance, coordination and it also takes time to get used to making exercise a part of your life.

Once you know what you're doing and how you're doing it, you'll need some strategies for sticking with it:

  • Schedule your workouts
  • Set weekly goals and reward yourself each time you succeed
  • Work out with friends or family for added motivation
  • Recommit to your goals every day
  • Be prepared by always having your workout bag with you, bringing your lunch to work, etc.
  • Be prepared for those times when you feel like skipping your workout
  • Keep a food and workout journal to stay on track and measure your progress
  • Take your measurements regularly

Back to Exercise for Beginners

More About Getting Started with Exercise

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Simple Exercise Warm Up
Develop Exercise Habits With Your Children

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