SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. They go beyond wishful thinking by translating hope into an actionable goal. Each part of a SMART plan asks you to answer several questions, according to the University of California:
- Be specific by asking, what actions will you take?
- Make a goal measurable by asking, how can you determine how well you’re doing?
- Make a goal achievable by asking, do you have the necessary skills and resources?
- Keep a goal relevant by asking, does it align with your broader goals?
- Ensure a goal is time-bound by asking, what is your time frame for accomplishing it?
Going to the gym because you want to be fit or taking more walks to increase your stamina are reasonable starting goals, but they lack the specificity and relevance that would allow them to make a fundamental change in your life. However, you could turn one of these non-specific goals into a SMART goal by answering each question.
For example, you could phrase a goal like this: “I want to run in a 10k race in November. I will prepare for it by going for morning runs three times a week starting with 2k runs and building up to 10k runs by the beginning of September.”
This goal has a specific action with measurable results and a realistic time frame. The more details you can include in your original plan, the SMARTer it will be.
Follow Doctor Recommendations
Exercise is vital at every age, but as an older adult, your doctor may have recommendations to help you create healthy habits without putting your overall health at risk.
For example, you should incorporate 150 minutes of moderate physical activity into each week, according to Healthline. But the types of activities you choose may vary, depending on your physical abilities and needs. Possible activities include walking, cycling, swimming, and flexibility and strength training.
While you can get enough exercise by doing a little over 20 minutes each day, talk to your doctor if you have health concerns or haven’t exercised in a long time. Joints, bones, and muscles weaken over time, putting you at higher risk of injury as you age.
Start Slow and Track Your Progress
If you haven’t had a regular exercise plan, it’s never too late to start. However, to keep yourself safe and improve your chances of sticking with your plan, the National Institute on Aging suggests these ideas:
- Warm up before exercising, and cool down afterward.
- Begin with low-intensity exercises.
- Drink water regularly, even when you don’t feel thirsty.
- Wear appropriate clothing for the activity.
- Watch for curbs, potholes, slippery surfaces, and other hazards when exercising outdoors.
- Track your progress.
You can record your starting point and track progress with this free activity log from the National Institute on Aging.
Starting a new exercise program is daunting, but it’s worth it for the benefits of being physically active. Exercise protects against chronic conditions like stroke and cardiovascular disease, reduces your risk of falls and the impact of osteoporosis, boosts your brain health, and even improves outcomes for people with Alzheimer’s disease, according to Healthline.
Sometimes, the hardest part is the first step, so don’t delay — lace up your shoes and get started.