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Workout Plans: How to Create Fitness Goals

Be sure to check with your doctor before beginning any activity plan or increasing your activity. It's also important to ask him or her what your target heart rate is to help determine what exercise intensity may be appropriate for you.

Becoming active comes with many benefits. Here’s a plan that may help make it happen.

Before you create your workout plan, it may help to create exercise goals

Create SMART fitness goals

It’s helpful to first ask yourself: "Am I happy with my current level of activity? Where do I want to be? What is motivating me? Am I trying to lose a little weight? To become more fit? To start walking?" All are worthy goals, and there are many more in addition to these. To help you pick your fitness goal, follow the SMART method described just below.

For example, let’s say your goal is, "I want to be able to walk for 20 minutes continuously by the end of 4 weeks." This is a SMART goal because it is:

  • Specific: 20 minutes of walking in 4 weeks. This provides better focus, which is especially helpful when it comes to making a plan
  • Measurable: No problem here. You can easily measure 20 minutes of walking by using your phone, watch, or a stop watch
  • Achievable: Is 20 minutes of walking in 4 weeks something you can do? The idea is to choose a goal within your reach, but challenging enough to motivate you
  • Realistic: Will you stick to it? You have to be honest with yourself about your commitment to starting a new program
  • Time-frame specific: Specifying 4 weeks gives you a definite period of time
Learn How to Determine Workout Activities You Like
Learn How to Determine Workout Activities You Like

Determine the workout activities you like

There’s more than one way to become active. Choices are all around you. To help you choose activities, think about these points:

  • Pick something you enjoy
  • Make it accessible. You want to spend time doing the activity, not getting to the activity
  • Inside or outside? It might be best to cover both bases, so you’ll have a go-to option in bad weather or after dark
  • What about intensity? If you haven’t been active, start with light-intensity activities such as easy walking
  • Alone or with a partner? Planning for both helps. It’s good to have company to look forward to when possible so you can motivate each other
  • At the gym or at home? Both can work, so you have a choice
  • A schedule to follow. Consider your typical week. Are some days busier than others? Plan around what works best for you

Now finalize your workout plan

To help you achieve your fitness goals using the activities you’ve chosen, experts from the American Heart Association and the Mayo Clinic recommend these guidelines:

  • Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity 5 days a week or 25 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity 3 days a week
  • Adults should also do strength training 2 days a week. Examples include lifting weights or doing calisthenics such as push-ups or sit-ups
  • Adults should stretch before and after exercising. If they aren't planning on exercising, stretching should be done at least 3 days a week. An example would be yoga
  • Finally, older adults who are prone to falling should do balance exercises. An example would be standing on one leg

Work up to these recommended levels gradually. These are general recommendations for healthy individuals. If you have a specific health condition, the recommendations for you may differ. Always check with your doctor before starting or increasing activity.

Here are some tips to help you get fit:

  • Some gyms may have free trial offers for new members
  • Look into gym reimbursement options with your employer
  • Check out community centers or YMCAs that might have lower monthly fees
  • Some parks have fitness loops or outdoor equipment for public use

Now you have a plan of action—start slowly, stay positive, and stick with it

Get great fitness tips in the “How Active Are You?” guide.

Stay focused on your fitness goals by downloading the 4-Week Activity Planner.