Set Your Fitness Goals

Woman outdoors working out looking at watch

You’ve made the decision to become more physically active -- the first major step toward better health and fitness. But what’s next? Adults benefit from at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. But everyone’s goals are different, and you should tailor your exercise plan to your abilities and needs. Answer the following questions before starting a new fitness program or routine.

  1. How fit are you now?

    How much physical activity you can do will depend on your current fitness level. Determine your starting point by recording your first fitness scores when you begin your program. If you continue to do this periodically, you’ll be able to track your progress. A health or fitness professional can help you learn how to get your scores.

    To assess your aerobic and muscular fitness, flexibility and body composition, you should record:
  • Your pulse rate before and immediately after walking one mile (1.6 kilometers)
  • How long it takes to walk one mile
  • How many push-ups you can do in one set
  • How far you can reach forward while seated on the floor with your legs in front of you (are your legs straight here and are you reaching toward your feet?)
  • Your waist circumference just above your hipbones
  • Your body mass index
  1. Do you have any health conditions?

    If you have a chronic medical condition, such as diabetes or heart disease, you should talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise program. But in general, healthy adults who plan small increases in their weekly physical activity do not need to consult a healthcare provider before becoming active. Don’t wait to begin moving more and sitting less throughout your day.
  2. What activities do you enjoy?

    Research shows people are more likely to continue a fitness program they enjoy. If you have a blast on the dance floor, you might want to consider an aerobics class that includes dance moves. If you enjoy being around others, a gym membership or walking club might be a good bet. If you prefer to exercise alone, try running or getting some simple equipment you can use at home.
  3. How much are you willing to pay for fitness?

    When choosing your fitness options, make sure they also fit your budget. If gym memberships and home exercise equipment are too pricey, consider cheaper options for getting in shape. Your nearby YMCA or recreation center may offer discounted fitness classes. Or look for inexpensive workout videos online.

    Consider walking, a free activity you can do almost anywhere. You can base a well-rounded fitness program around brisk daily walks and inexpensive hand-held weights or resistance bands. 

Next Step: Goal setting

Use your answers to these questions as a guide, you are now ready to set your goals.
  • General Goal - If you are just starting out, work toward meeting the American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults. Current guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity (or a combination of the two), plus strength training.
     
  • Specific Goal - If you have something more specific in mind, such as running a 5K race or completing a triathlon, create a specific plan to reach that goal. Consider starting or joining a walking club, running club or training group to get help with your training plan.
     
  • Weight-Loss Goal - If the goal of your physical activity program is to lose weight, you may want to talk with your doctor to determine a healthy amount to lose each week. Along with managing calorie intake, physical activity is an important part of losing weight and keeping it off. The amount of activity needed to achieve a healthy weight varies greatly from person to person.

You may want to ask a health or fitness professional what types and amounts of physical activity are recommended to reach your goal.

Clear goals can help motivate you when you’re not in the mood to get moving. Tracking your progress can also help you stick with the program.