7 tips for setting realistic health and fitness goals for the new year

As we begin the new year, many people will make resolutions for self-improvement. For some people, that includes a focus on losing weight. Often those plans fail and some of it has to do with how people set their health goals.

Dr. Erik Richardson is a family practice physician with Saltzer Health, an Intermountain Healthcare company. As a part of his practice, he sees patients who are looking to improve their health through exercises designed for their body type and fitness level.

A major part of being successful is setting realistic goals people can reach. Dr. Richardson says when goals are too lofty, people can get discouraged and quit. Consistency is often the most important step to improving health and fitness. Focusing on regular exercises instead of being concerned about the number of reps or weight can also lead to consistent progress.

Here are some other tips Dr. Richardson suggests for setting realistic goals that are easier to achieve:

1.Try to measure your health and fitness by more than just your weight.

While a healthy weight is important to maintain, it’s not the only measure of success.

“Weight can fluctuate for a variety of reasons, and people can still be making progress on their fitness even if their weight isn’t going down. A good way to start is to get your annual physical to measure cholesterol, blood sugar, and other health metrics,” Dr. Richardson said. “After that another tool is a health assessment, which can measure a person’s metabolic rate, body composition, and fitness level, among other things. From there people can set measurable health and fitness goals beyond the scale.”

One way doctors at Saltzer Health do this is with a DEXA scan, which can give a reading of a person’s body composition in a few minutes.

2.Look at fitness as a way of improving your overall mental and physical health, not just as a way to look better.

“In an era of social media, it can be easy to be discouraged when working out doesn’t turn into the “perfect” bodies seen online,” Dr. Richardson said. “It’s easier for people to notice improvements in their overall health even with moderate physical activity. Now more than ever, science shows us exercise is as important for emotional health as physical health. If you want to improve your mood, get moving and if possible, exercise.”

3.Set fitness goals with activities you enjoy doing.

“If you don’t like running, then don’t make it a major part of your workout. Do exercises you enjoy, and they will be easier to stick with,” Dr. Richardson said.

4.Stop comparing yourself to other people when setting fitness goals.

“Everyone’s body is different, and the path to a fitness goal will be as well. Set goals that are attainable, and be ready with another set of goals once you reach the first set. With goals, it’s important to start with successes, even if you think they are small successes,” Dr. Richardson said.

5.What you eat is key to any fitness goal. You can’t out-exercise poor nutritional habits.

“People should assess what their fitness goals are before changing their eating habits. Bulking up with muscle or preparing for marathons are going to require different nutritional needs,” Dr. Richardson said.

6.Focus less on a short-term diet and more on adopting healthier eating habits.

“Don’t try to do everything at once, and know you don’t have to be perfect to make progress,” Dr. Richardson said. “Stop looking at food as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ but instead as some things that should be enjoyed in moderation. Diets fail because they heavily restrict what you can eat, and people are more likely to go off the rails and overeat ‘bad’ foods.”

7.Join a community.

“If you can find people to join you in your journey, even if it’s just for the occasional walk or to talk about new food recipes, community helps. In addition to the support of having a community as part of your process, sharing in our journey can also make it a more delightful adventure,” Dr. Richardson said.

You can find more information about healthy weight loss at saltzerhealth.com. Visit Saltzer Health online today to start working with a provider on a unique plan for your specific health level and lifestyle.

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