As adults we often discard the need for setting goals, assuming that self-reasoning will help us stay on track. If that were the case, then America wouldn’t have an obesity problem! No matter what your age, setting goals keeps us focused and motivates us to keep moving forward. It is also best to set both short and long term goals. Goals are most useful when they are “SMART,” which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Tracked over time.
A specific short-term goal may be to start strength training; the long-term goal may be to ease the symptoms of arthritis, improve balance, or control your weight. These types of goals are easily measurable. For example, have you or have you not begun the program? Indeed, this is an attainable goal, as long as your doctor approves, and this goal is certainly relevant to living a long, healthy life. Your goal should be able to be tracked over time. For example, you should read this book within 5 days, get what you need to start exercising, and set your exercise schedule within the next 5 days. Start the program within the following 2 to 3 days.
The goals and the time frame are entirely up to you. Your success depends on setting goals that are truly important to you, and possessing a strong desire to achieve them. In addition, write down your goals, put them where you can see them, and review them regularly.
One thing to consider is having some sort of fitness assessment done prior to beginning your program. Many people avoid doing this because they know they are not fit and don’t want to actually know how poor their level of fitness really is. However, knowing your baseline – even if it is very low – allows you to see the progress you’re making, and that is exciting and motivating!
Several simple assessments can help you see how fit you are right now.
- Body Composition Assessment. This uses a height to waist ratio to determine how lean your body is. Your waist circumference should be less than half of your height. Therefore, if you are 72 inches tall, your waist should ideally be less than 36 inches. Studies have shown that keeping your height to waist ratio within these parameters can increase your life expectancy. This assessment is different than the popular Body Mass Index (BMI) assessment, which is a height to weight comparison. Fitness professionals prefer body composition over BMI because the latter does not take into consideration weight distribution.
- Cardiovascular Endurance Assessment (also called a Harvard Step Test). Step-up and down for 3 minutes at a steady pace, then see how long it takes for your heart rate to normalize after you stop stepping. The shorter the interval, the better one’s cardiovascular condition.
- Bend and Reach Assessment. Your level of flexibility is measured by sitting on the floor with your legs stretched out straight and you reach towards your toes. The farther past your toes you can reach, the greater your flexibility.
Although most people don’t like fitness assessments, the results can help you set realistic goals. They also will be useful later on to measure your progress, thereby giving you positive reinforcement.