Whether you want to tone up, lose a few pounds or improve your cardiovascular health, adopting a fitness regimen can do the trick. However, getting fit represents a significant commitment of time and energy, so you want to make sure you succeed in your efforts. Using the American Council on Exercise’s SMART method – which stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based – to set short-term fitness goals helps you achieve long-term results.
Short- vs. Long-Term Goals
Short-term goals generally take four to six weeks to achieve, according to physical education professor Dr. Charles B. Corbin. Think of short-term goals as stepping stones along the path toward accomplishing a long-term goal that, in contrast, may take months to achieve. For instance, a short-term fitness goal of walking 30 minutes per day, five days a week propels you toward your long-term goal of running a 5K race that’s taking place in six months.
Apply the SMART criteria to each of your goals. Specific goals are easy to understand; for instance, make a goal of "doing 25 push-ups” rather than “increasing upper arm strength.” Measurability allows you to determine whether you achieved your goal – “I will run a mile in five minutes by the end of next week.” Attainable goals are realistic, so you’re more likely to achieve them, and less likely to get frustrated and give up. Make your goals relevant to your needs and situation; if you want to run a 5K in six months, focus on exercises that will increase your stamina. Finally, make your goals time-bound by providing yourself with a deadline. As an added bonus, time-based goals are easier to measure. Write your goals down, periodically review them and don’t be afraid to make revisions.
Improving your cardiovascular health involves increasing your heart rate and giving your lungs a workout, which in turn lowers blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease. Activities such as walking, jogging, swimming, aerobics, jump roping and in-line skating all raise heart rate. Short-term cardio goals might include 30 minutes of running on a treadmill three days a week, walking briskly for 20 minutes four days a week, jump roping for 15 minutes four times per week or riding an exercise bike for 30 minutes three times per week.
Strength Training Goals
Short-term strength training goals promote endurance, improve muscle tone and increase metabolism. Goals may include doing 15 repetitions of exercises on various muscle groups for at least 30 minutes, two days per week. To create resistance, use an exercise band or weights; include regular, measurable increases in resistance or weight as part of your short-term goal plan.
Improved flexibility leads to greater ease of movement, less stiffness and reduced joint pain. Short-term flexibility goals may include doing one hour of yoga, Pilates or tai chi twice a week, doing 30 minutes of stretching three times per week or five daily minutes of stretching after exercise or upon waking in the morning.
- Fitness for Life; Charles B. Corbin
- American Council on Exercise: Reaching Your Goals the SMART Way
- Canada College: Step 3 -- Set Your Fitness Goals
- Web MD: Kick It Up With Cardio Exercise
- MayoClinic.com: Fitness Programs -- 7 Tips for Staying Motivated
- American Council on Exercise: Flexible Benefits
- American Council on Exercise: Strength and Resistance Training
- National Institutes of Health: Sample Exercises -- Strength
- American Council on Exercise: Fit Facts
Based in the Southwest, Linsay Evans writes about a range of topics, from parenting to gardening, nutrition to fitness, marketing to travel. Evans holds a Master of Library and Information Science and a Master of Arts in anthropology.