February 5, 2018

Goal setting through exercise

Dr Narelle Cox, Physiotherapist and Research Fellow, La Trobe University, Melbourne

Having a health professional tell you that exercising regularly is important is one thing – but actually doing it can be another matter. Setting goals that are tailored to your individual situation and working toward these outcomes can help serve as motivation to exercise and enable you to see the results of your efforts.

It can be helpful to think about the top three motivators that have encouraged you to improve your physical health, and write them down somewhere you can regularly and easily reflect on them, such as sticking them to the fridge. Motivators might include being able to more easily play with your grandchildren, or to be less breathless when hanging out the washing. The next step is to develop a plan to move you toward your goals. An easy way to make a plan is to use the SMART goal setting principles:

Specific: Determine what it is you need to do without generalising. For example, be specific about tasks, days and times.

Measurable: Set criteria that will allow you to track progress such as a logbook.

Attractive: Outline why this goal is important to you, such as maintaining independence or being able to socialise.

Realistic: Take a moment to reflect and consider if your goal is realistic to achieve, for example choosing a time that doesn’t conflict with any other commitments.

Time-framed: Set a start and end date to ensure you can focus on achieving your goal, such as your next appointment with your exercise professional.

It is also helpful to consider barriers that might get in the way of your plan, and strategies to overcome these. For example, if bad weather limits your ability to exercise outdoors, consider an alternative, such as walking at a local shopping centre or using an exercise bike.

Whether you are exercising at home or through an organised program such as pulmonary rehabilitation or Lung Foundation Australia’s Lungs in Action program, remember – achieving your goals may take some time. Be sure to pace yourself by breaking the ultimate goal into smaller, more achievable targets along the way. Just like the hare and the tortoise – ‘slow’ (paced) and ‘steady’ (regular) wins the race.