Goals can be powerful motivators, especially when it comes to improving personal fitness. When we achieve goals, we not only get a boost of self-confidence but also a feeling of pleasure thanks to the release of dopamine — one of the feel-good hormones and an essential part of our internal reward system.1 Likewise, taking time to reflect on your hard work and what you can accomplish will pump up your self-esteem and drive you to do more. The trick is setting the right fitness goal for yourself.
Goal-setting theory presented in the 1960s by American psychologist E. A. Locke is that challenging, specific goals have a higher performance rate than easy, general goals.2 This theory, with further development, is considered the initial idea for the widely utilized goal-setting framework called SMART goals.
You may have heard of SMART goals in a school or work setting, but this framework can be applied to other areas of life, like health and fitness. To set a SMART fitness goal, start thinking about what your goal might be, then refine it as you move through each letter below:3
- Specific: Your goal should be more than simply getting fitter.
- Measurable: As covered in our tracking health metrics hack, tracking your progress at the end (and along the way) is useful and keeps you away from vague goals.
- Achievable: You need to feel challenged but believe you can reach it.
- Relevant: The goal needs to be realistic and align with what you are generally aiming for (better fitness).
- Time-Bound: Having an end date will keep you on schedule and prevent you from putting it off.
Using the SMART goal framework doesn’t mean the end goal can’t be fun. Some ideas for inspiration might be an upcoming trip that involves a lot of hiking, biking, swimming etc. With this kind of goal, you can consider the approximate distance you’ll be going, the speed at which you’ll be doing it and any other add-ons. Or, you may want to focus on improving your heart health or diabetes risk - specific health goals work too. For example, lowering your cholesterol or blood glucose is a great end goal that can easily be measured using imaware’s at-home Heart Health Test, Prediabetes/Diabetes Test, Men’s Health Test or Women’s Health Test.
What’s your SMART fitness goal?
- Cleveland Clinic. Dopamine. Accessed March 8, 2023.
- Organizational Behavior and Human Performance. Toward a theory of task motivation and incentives. Accessed March 8, 2023.
- Atlassian: Work Life. How to write SMART goals. Accessed March 8, 2023.