|Most Americans know the benefits of regular
daily physical activity. In fact the Surgeon General says that as little
as 30 minutes of brisk walking or cycling a day is enough to improve your
energy level and mood, aid with weight loss, and reduce your risk for a
host of chronic afflictions and an early demise. But how do you make physical
activity a habit that will stick? By setting reasonable goals, building
gradually, and keeping your activity fun. Here are eight tips from Mark
Fenton, author of "The Complete Guide to Walking for Health, Weight
Loss, and Fitness," on setting and reaching your goals.
1. Choose "internal" rather than "external"
Focus on things that matter to you, not to others.
So don't try to drop a dress size by your class reunion so others will
be impressed. Instead try to walk 20 minutes five days a week so you
wake up feeling better each morning.
2. Focus on an enjoyable process, not a specific
If your goal is to lose 30 pounds, you can end up (wrongly)
disappointed if you only lose 28! But maintaining a streak of 30 days
where you've walked or biked for at least 10 minutes will leave you feeling
better on every one of those days.
3. Have both short and long term goals.
For example, short term is planning to walk 12 out
of the next 14 or 50 out of the next 60 days; long term is trying to cycle
600 or 1,000 miles this year.
4. Tell others about your goal.
They're sure to ask how you're doing and thus help
keep you on track; they may even start exercising with you.
5. Plan real rewards for meeting your goals.
Don't use food, and choose things of substance you'll
look forward too-earn yourself a new workout jacket, a concert, even a
6. Keep an exercise log or diary.
It'll help you see your progress and keep your goal
in mind, and is proven to keep exercisers on track.
7. Sign up for an event.
Committing to walk a marathon or cycle in a long fund
raising event will help you build on your exercise. Pick a fun location
for the event (say, Bermuda or Hawaii) and make it even becomes part of
8. Join an organized or informal
club or a team.
For bigger goals this can really help you learn to
train properly and keep you motivated.