Just about everyone wants to improve or work on something when it comes to their personal physical fitness. From weight loss to eating more nutritious foods to training for a triathlon, each person has their own unique physical activity goals. There are tons of ways to go about making these desired lifestyle, diet, and exercise changes. But often, despite our best intentions, we fail to stick with or reach our fitness goals.

Some people find that they can come up with a plan and a time frame to succeed, but for many, the execution is where they struggle. Know that it is very common to be all-in for your goal at first but then to slowly lose steam. Or to make many grand plans but not follow through at all.

However, it’s not simply about lack of drive or willingness to put in the work seven days a week. Really, it’s about not effectively structuring or understanding your goal—and the process of going after it. This is where setting a SMART fitness goal can help.

Setting up SMART fitness goals for yourself will give you a roadmap for securing your goal, a strategy that optimizes your chances for success. This process will make you accountable and help you see the path forward.

You’ll know exactly what you are committing to do and see the light at the end of the tunnel. Whether you want to stick to a healthier diet, drop a dress size, improve your overall health and fitness, or walk more steps each day, making SMART fitness goals can help get you there.

Learn what a SMART fitness goal is, see examples of SMART fitness goals, and discover how to use SMART goals to help you reach all the health and fitness aims you desire.

SMART Fitness Goals Examples

One easy way to understand how to use SMART is to look at an example of using a SMART fitness goal. For instance, generally, if you want to lose weight using SMART fitness goals, you pick one area of your diet to make an adjustment for a set amount of time. You might decide to cut sugary sodas out of your diet altogether. Or if you tend to drink three or four of these drinks a day, you might simply decide to drop down to indulging in just one daily for one week straight.

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That’s the SMART approach. Essentially, you use the same SMART goal template each time but just swap out the exact thing you are wanting to do for each goal. It’s an easy, concrete approach that helps keep you focused on your aim. You know exactly what you need to do, which makes following through much more likely.

Once you get the hang of setting SMART fitness goals, you will be on your way to achieving your goals and living the lifestyle you truly want. But first, let’s dive into exactly what SMART means.

What are SMART goals?

SMART goal-setting is a technique used to guide goal making and optimize achievement. The word “SMART,” an acronym that was first developed with business goals in mind, represents a method that can be utilized and adapted for the pursuit of any type of activity, including those having to do with fitness and lifestyle.

There are a variety of versions of SMART. But generally, it stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Relevant/Realistic, and Time-bound/Timeframe.

Specific

In other words, a SMART goal is something that is distinct and precise. In fact, the specificity of your goal is key to the magic of SMART goal-setting. As in, your goal is the opposite of vague. Rather than broadly deciding that you will eat better or start exercising, you tease out a specific item that you will pursue, such as running two miles per day, eating five servings of fruit daily, or skipping dessert.

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Measurable

Measurable means that your goal has a specific quantifiable aspect. For example, instead of aiming to walk more steps each day, you will determine exactly how many more steps to add, such as 500 more per day. Or you’ll decide to do 100 jumping jacks and 50 burpees three times per week.

Achievable

The attainable or achievable part of SMART means simply that the fitness goal needs to be something you can actually accomplish. So, don’t decide to run a marathon the first week you begin a running program. You want to challenge yourself, but going overboard is a surefire way to disappointment.

And even if you start off fully committed to an overly ambitious goal, you’re likely to burn out before reaching your final goal. Instead, set a more realistic goal that you really can do and sustain over time, such as adding an extra half mile to your run every three days for a three-week period.

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Realistic

Making sure your lifestyle goal is relevant and realistic is also key. The SMART goal needs to make sense as a part of reaching your ultimate goal. So, if you long to get in shape, you’ll want to pick goals that apply directly to this aim.

For instance, you might decide to ride your bike to and from work. Or instead of walking your dog twice around the block each night, you can up that to five times. But aiming for 50 times around the block most likely won’t be realistic, unless you have unlimited time and energy.

Additionally, the goals need to fit into your fitness plan. So, setting goals to read more or eat less meat aren’t directly relevant to your goal of getting fit. And deciding you’ll workout for three hours a day may be completely unrealistic, so pick a more plausible goal.

Time

Lastly, make sure your goal is time-bound, meaning that you set a specific timeframe in which to pursue and complete your goal. So, rather than deciding to eliminate sugar forever, you want to make your SMART goal to last for one day or one week or one month. Having a set duration gives you a finish line. And having a potential end in sight—and the tangible victory you get from lasting the entire prescribed time—sets you up to stick with the goal until the time is up.

What are SMART fitness goal examples?

Examples of SMART fitness goals include picking a food or drink you want to eat more or less of and then coming up with an exact amount that you will either consume or abstain from eating or drinking over the course of a specific amount of time. You might decide to eliminate dessert or fast food for two weeks or you could choose brown rice over white rice or replace butter with olive oil in your food for a month.

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SMART goals for exercise might be to do three sets of 10 push ups each day or to do 100 sit ups and 50 push ups daily for two weeks. Other ideas include swimming 20 laps twice a week or playing basketball with your friends for an hour every Friday night for a month. You might use the stairs instead of the elevator. You might play squash or soccer three times a week. You might decide to read three motivation quotes about health and fitness each day. You could choose to stick to a set bedtime routine and schedule for a week.

Whatever you decide, just make sure it is a specific, achievable goal that makes sense for your ultimate goal. And that you can track your progress over the course of your challenge for an exact period of time.

Your larger fitness and lifestyle goal may be to lose weight, eat better, get in shape, become more physically active, get healthier, sleep better, feel better in your body, or any other health or fitness aim that resonates with you. However, your SMART goal will be a concrete, doable, relevant item that you’ll commit to pursuing for a set duration.

Things to consider before setting your SMART fitness goals

Remember that while you want to challenge yourself, if you start out small, you are more likely to have a realistic and achievable goal. While it’s understandable to want to go for a big dream from the start, such as running 10 miles a day, that’s not likely to happen right away. Nor does it need to!

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Making your goal something a bit more modest is a way to set yourself up for success—and protect yourself from getting discouraged. The aim is to pick something that’s just out of reach rather than something that’s still out of sight. That’s not to say that ultimately you can’t get there, just that you take it one step at a time.

That’s the beauty of using SMART goals. You find a specific objective and go after it over a specific amount of time. Once you reach that finish line, you can decide to re-up the goal if it serves you well or you feel it is still needed. You can also choose to abandon or modify the goal. Whatever you decide, if you reach the initial goal, you still have the feeling of success—even if you don’t continue whatever the practice was.

SMART goals are more likely to succeed because they are completely personalized to your wishes, wants, and situation. In other words, instead of trying to jump on the bandwagon of the latest fitness, diet, health, or wellness trend, you tailor your goal to exactly what will work for you.

Another great plus of this approach to time management and goal setting is that you are always in a test phase and have the opportunity to keep refining your methods as each SMART goal comes to a close.

So, if you chose to drink 10 glasses of water daily but found that you were still thirsty you could switch to drinking 12 a day. Or if you end up waking up at night to use the restroom, you might cut back to 8 glasses of water a day or decide only to drink them before 5 pm. Alternatively, if you struggled to drink all that water, you might try flavored water, instead.

Essentially, the SMART approach gives you ample opportunity to keep finetuning your goals to make them more relevant and achievable.

The benefits of setting both long-term and short-term SMART fitness goals

Another great thing about SMART fitness goals is that you can have more than one at a time. In fact, having both long-term and short-term goals can help you stay motivated while also inching your way toward your ultimate fitness aims.

Start small, build big

Short-term goals with a duration of, say, a few days or weeks, are easier to stick to because, well, they are shorter. For example, if you want to give up candy, you might know for sure that you can go a few hours without eating any. But the idea of lasting a week or longer seems overwhelming. So, you might make it your goal to not eat candy for one whole day.

Success builds over time

Then, once you reach that milestone, you can decide either to go again or maybe to up the stakes to two days at a time. In this way, your long-term goal may be to eat candy only once a month or never again. But you can use multiple short-term goals to get you there. Getting that short-term goal success helps to keep you focused on the present and tends to feed the desire and willpower to stay committed to your goal.

Creativity it key

Additionally, having both short- and long-term goals at your disposal can help to facilitate some creativity on your part. And this process can lend your goal-setting into a bit of a game. Making it feel like a game certainly boosts the likelihood that you’ll stick around to play. In other words, piecing together a variety of short-term goals to get to your long-term ones helps to build and sustain your motivation—and sense of success—along the way.

SMART fitness goals examples for absolute beginners

Here are some more examples that may work well for SMART fitness goal beginners:

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Drink two glasses of water with every meal

Only eat dessert on the weekends

Do not eat any chips

Begin tracking your steps each day, then add 200 more steps each day for a week

Walk on the treadmill for 15 minutes a day

Bike for 20 minutes three times a week

Swim for 30 minutes every other day

Instead of fried food, choose baked or steamed

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Skip your afternoon snack

Choose fruit instead of chocolate for an evening treat

Switch to 1% milk rather than drinking whole milk

Use salad plates rather than dinner plates to reduce portion size

When you go out to eat, skip the appetizer

Have one glass of wine with dinner rather than two

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Do a circuit of 10 weights

Do 20 sit-ups each morning

Do 10 push-ups before bed

Do 30 second planks daily

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Do 60 second wall sits each day

Remember that these fitness goal examples are simply that—examples. You can pick a few to try or you can create your own. The key is to pick a specific goal to pursue within a set timeframe. Make the duration something that seems a little bit hard but not so challenging that it feels impossible. If you think one week is too long to stick to your goal, lower your intent to a few days. Conversely, if you know you can go a week without drinking a soda, you might want to strive for lasting two weeks or even a month.

Then, once you get there, you can opt to extend your goal for another time period. And at a certain point, you might even find that your SMART fitness goal has become a new healthy habit, one that you can sustain much more easily—eventually, even without the SMART goal framework.

Key takeaways

Using the SMART goal management method to reach your health and fitness aims is a great way to set yourself up to reach your goals. The SMART system guides you to select specific, time-sensitive goals that you can actually achieve. And having a clock ticking is sure to boost your motivation and help you stick to your plan.

Plus, even if you have trouble meeting to your goal, instead of getting discouraged, all you need to do is to modify your SMART fitness goal into something you really can stick with. So, look at your SMART goal setting as an experiment as well as a challenge. There is no failure, only information you can use to create better, more realistic goals for yourself in the future. In other words, if you don’t make your SMART goal the first time, try and try again.

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As you get the hang of the SMART method, you’ll soon become a whiz at tailoring your goals to fit your particular needs and lifestyle while also picking something that furthers your short- and long-term goals. So, get inspired by the examples of SMART fitness goals. Then, go ahead, tinker, have fun, and create some personal SMART goals that will get you on the path to reaching the health and fitness goals you truly want to achieve. All you need is the belief that you can get there—and the know-how that comes with following the SMART goal-setting plan.

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