30% of people fail to achieve theirfitness goals.Only 40% complete half of them.
Regardless of your fitness goal, it might seem the odds are against you (because they are). Setting a goal and actually reaching it is a challenging thing to do. The National Council on Strength and Fitness reports the top seven reasons people fail to reach their fitness goals include:
Creating unrealistic goals
Not creating short-term goals
Comparing one's self to others
Not having a total game plan (i.e., working out but eating poorly)
Scheduling and priority issues
And failing to be informed
How do you increase your chances of meeting your fitness goal?
The answer lies in setting SMART goals. This goal-setting method isn't just for fitness. High achievers frequently use it to succeed.
Studies have found SMART goals to be highly effective. Consider these findings:
Michigan State University found those who wrote down their goals, outlined the steps, and reported progress to achieve success 33% more often compared to those without a framework.
Dominican University found those who set specific and challenging goals 43% more likely to achieve them than vague or easy goals.
Forbes cites a study that shows that those who use SMART goals are 400% more productive than those who don't.
"When we have something we can do that is measurable over time, that we can visibly see on paper that is changing, we are more likely to stick with it because we can see the success."
This method can be a highly effective way to reach your goals. However, deciding on the goal may be challenging. We interviewed a wide range of fitness experts and gained insight into examples of setting SMART fitness goals. This includes beginner-friendly movement goals, muscle-building, weight loss, flexibility, and endurance.
What are SMART Fitness Goals?
When setting goals, it's common to make the mistake of making them vague.
"My goal is to lose weight."
This method of goal setting automatically sets you up for failure. This is where setting SMART goals comes into play. A SMART goal is a method of creating a goal that makes a clear roadmap for success. It can help keep you motivated and on track.
The acronym SMART goal stands for:
Specific: Instead of a vague goal like "get in shape," a SMART goal is specific to the outcome desired. Instead, it might be "run a 5K without stopping within six months" or "lift 20lb dumbbells for 3 sets of 10 reps by June."
Measurable: SMART goals are easily quantified through numbers, dates, or milestones. This makes tracking progress easier to assess success.
Achievable: Making a goal attainable is highly important. A SMART goal is challenging yet realistic. Set challenging but realistic goals.
Relevant: To keep your motivation, a SMART goal aligns with your interests and desires. This increases your chances of success as it feeds your motivation
Time-bound: Procrastination is your worst enemy with goals. SMART goals counter-act this by including deadlines to create urgency. They have specific dates or durations to keep you accountable.
How to Set SMART Fitness Goals
Creating a SMART goal for exercise can set you up for success. But how you go about doing it is essential. Try following these steps:
Choose a specific goal. Be as specific as possible and avoid vagueness. Instead of "lose weight," say "lose x pounds." The more specific you can get, the better.
Include a measurable number you can track. It's crucial to quantify your goal to track progress. You can measure the weight lost/gained, distance ran, weight lifted, and more. Pinpoint a key performance indicator that will provide feedback on your progress.
Be realistic. Make sure it's achievable but challenging. Unrealistic goals are a recipe for failure. Start with challenging but achievable targets and gradually increase the difficulty as you progress.
Keep it relevant. Make your goal highly relevant to your interests and desires. Ask yourself "why" it to you. Do you want to look and feel better? Do you want to improve your health? A relevant goal will keep you motivated and engaged.
Set a timeframe. Procrastination is the enemy of progress. Create a deadline for your goal to add urgency and hold yourself accountable. Create a specific date for you to meet your goal.
SMART Goals for Physical Activity (Beginner-Friendly)
If you're newly embarking on your fitness journey, it's easy to get overwhelmed. You want to succeed, but developing a habit structure can take time and effort. You may fall into pitfalls by comparing yourself to others or engaging in negative self-talk. Below, we highlight a few beginner-friendly exercise SMART goals.
Stretch for 10 minutes each day before going to bed- Toshoya McEwan, Registered Kinesiologist and CSEP Certified Personal Trainer
Walk 10,000 steps a day for 30 days- Richard Hashimashi, NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach
SMART Goals for Building Muscle
This section looks at some of the SMART goals renowned fitness experts recommend for building muscle. From protein consumption to strength training, these goals can help you maximize your muscle gains while staying safe and healthy.
Consume 130g of protein daily to have the proper nourishment to support muscle gains. - Amanda Tress, CEO of FASTer Way to Fat Loss
Focusing on healthy habits and making gradual lifestyle changes is essential to achieve successful weight loss. In this section, we've gathered examples of SMART goals from registered dietitians, nutritionists, and personal trainers.
Aim to consume at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, focusing on nutrient-dense, plant-based options. - Trista Best, Registered Dietitian at Balance One Supplements
Consume a daily caloric intake of 1,800 calories, emphasizing a balanced distribution of macronutrients—proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. - Lisa Richards, Nutritionist, The Candida Diet
Aim for a 0.5-1% body weight loss per week for 12 weeks- Dr. Melina Jampolis, registered dietitian and author of "The Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook."
Replace sugary drinks with water or unsweetened tea/coffee for 8 weeks - Michael Matthews, certified personal trainer and author of "Bigger Leaner Stronger."
Increase daily protein intake to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight for 10 weeks, focusing on lean protein sources and plant-based alternatives- Dr. Yasi Ansari, registered dietitian and nutrition coach specializing in weight management
SMART Goals for Flexibility
Flexibility is a crucial aspect of overall fitness. It helps improve range of motion, prevent injury, and enhance athletic performance. These SMART flexibility goals can aid in making you more limber.
Hold a crow pose for 30 seconds within 3 months - Ido Portal, Movement Coach and Calisthenics Expert
I will perform my stretching routine three times a week and record a video selfie of progress once a week- Gareth Chapman, Fitness Coach
SMART Goals for Endurance
Endurance is crucial to cardiovascular health, muscle strength, and overall physical performance. Try these expert-recommended goals to improve your endurance.
Walk 20-30 minutes per day for a week with hiking gear to prepare for a long-distance trail- Richard Hashimashi, NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach
Run Continuously for 1 Mile in 6 Weeks- Hannah Clausen, NASM Certified Personal Trainer
Increase my 5K race time by 10% within six months- Michael Joyner, MD, Mayo Clinic Exercise Physiologist and researcher
Swim 10 laps of the pool continuously within 2 months. – Sarah Taylor, swim coach and owner of Taylormade Aquatics
Set Yourself Up for Fitness Success
Creating a SMART goal can be a surefire way to achieve fitness success. By following the five principles of SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound), you can create a clear roadmap for success that keeps you motivated and on track.
What SMART fitness goals are you incorporating into your fitness journey?