Setting your activity goals

Why do I need to set goals?

Some people find it helpful to set themselves goals when you start physical activity. This can be a good way to measure how much you’ve achieved since you started.

When setting goals, it’s important to remember not to be too hard on yourself – your condition can be changeable, but don’t let this make you feel defeated or disappointed. Even doing a small amount of movement on bad days can make such a difference and is still something to be proud of.

You should also remember that it’s normal for your goals to change as your condition changes.

Try to make a record of how you feel after doing some activity and learn how certain movements make your body feel. You can also tell your friends and family about your goals, so they can help you stay on track.

Some people use the word SMART to help them set their goals. This stands for:

  • Specific: What do you want to achieve? Why is it important to you? When, where and who with?
  • Measurable: How will you know when you have reached your goal? Some people use fitness watches, apps or written trackers to keep a record.
  • Attainable: Is your goal realistic, based on time, money, your condition?
  • Relevant: Is this a good time for you to set this goal? Think about your current health, other people you want to support you in this goal.
  • Time-bound: When do you want to reach your goal by?

For example: My goal is to feel less pain when walking. I plan to go on two short walks with my friend Cathy each week, gradually increasing the time we spend walking, so that in one month’s time I can walk for 15 minutes without stopping.

What do you already do?

You might be surprised by how much physical activity you already do. Even being on your feet while making a cup of tea counts as being active. Household tasks, like going shopping, mowing the lawn or making the bed, count towards your activity total.

Have a think about things you do already and see if you can find ways you could build more activity into your daily life, and make a note of what you could do. For example, could you march on the spot while you wait for the kettle to boil, get off the bus one stop early, or do some stretches during adverts while watching TV?

What would you like to achieve?

When setting your goals, it’s important to think about what moving more will mean to you. It may help reduce your pain or give your more energy – but you should also think about how it will affect you in your daily life. If your pain is reduced, you may be able to meet up with friends. And having more energy could mean you’re able to play with your children or grandchildren.

Make a note of what you want physical activity to help you with – this could be something like having the energy and confidence to go to an event, being able to reach to put on your socks, having less pain so you can walk to the shops, or simply feeling stronger and healthier.

What stops you from being active?

Sometimes it can be time, energy, money, or many other things that stops us from being active. Think about what gets in the way of you being more active and see if there is anything that you could do to make this easier.

If pain and stiffness in the morning stops you, try exercising in the afternoon. If you’re worried about spending money at an expensive gym, why not try some of our exercises for healthy joints.

Keeping track

Keeping a record of your exercise and activity can be helpful for getting started and might help you stay motivated to keep moving on difficult days.

You can use the tracker below to keep a record of your goals and what activity you’ve done.

Let’s Move tracker (PDF, 581 KB)

Don’t forget to reward yourself and record what you have done – no matter how small you think it seems. This reward can be anything – think about things like giving yourself some ‘me time’, smiling at yourself in the mirror, or treating yourself to something new for your home.