How to set a fitness goal you'll stick to – an expert's advice


Did you know that the earliest recorded New Year festivities date back to around 4 000 years ago? And likely for just as long, mankind has been making and breaking resolutions! Here a biokineticist weighs in on how to make your fitness goals last.

Humans also have a long history of making resolutions at the end of a year in hopes for a better future, particularly when the last year has been a rough one. But research on the topic shows that although around 60% of people acknowledge to making New Year's resolutions, only about 8% of us successfully achieve them.

Happily, that dubious success rate doesn't seem to deter us from trying again! Here are the top 5 most common New Year's resolutions, according to a recent survey of 2 000 people:

  1. Diet or eat healthier (71%)
  2. Exercise more (65%)
  3. Lose weight (54%)
  4. Save more and spend less (32%)
  5. Learn a new skill or hobby (26%)

It's clear that goals (especially personal health ones) are very common, but they're tricky to achieve, especially when they're vague like ‘lose weight' and ‘exercise more'. We chatted to Discovery biokineticist Mari Leach for her expert opinion.

Why fitness goals are better than weight-loss goals

“Personally, I think it's a bad idea to make weight loss a goal,” says Mari, “as people get despondent very quickly when they don't see a change, and then they tend to drop everything. Rather start with a specific fitness goal, such as aiming to walk 5 000 steps a day. You'll need a simple step counter, fitness device or app to record this, because if goals aren't measurable, you can't track your progress.”

“Then, once you've achieved this goal a few times over, up it to 6 000 steps a day. Increase your goal slowly and steadily, but only once you've consistently achieved your last goal. Keep going until you're at 10 000 steps a day. By then, you've probably started jogging a bit to achieve your goals faster. So make your next goal alternately walking and jogging, increasing the jogging portion with time, and so on. Keep challenging yourself incrementally and be consistent to start seeing and feeling results.”

What does it actually mean to get fit?

Are you unsure where to start in setting a specific, SMART goal? Begin with the basics: the minimum recommended exercise guidelines that result in health benefits. According to the World Health Organisation, for adults, this is at least 150 minutes a week at a moderate intensity, and 75 minutes a week at vigorous intensity.

“For weight loss, you'll need to do closer to 300 minutes of exercise per week at a moderate intensity and strength training 2 to 3 times a week,” recommends Mari.

“And for maximum health benefits, everyone should make sure their exercise plan includes cardiovascular training, strength training and some flexibility exercises.”

Apart from Mari's advice to start with small, achievable goals, and then once you've settled into your new fitness routine, to up the ante or add more sessions, she also had some practical suggestions to help persevere over time.

4 tips to help you stick to your goal

  1. Enter a race and tell all your friends about it. This way, their gentle social pressure can push you to keep up with your training and get to race day. (Try signing up for the Discovery Retro Run in Cape Town to enjoy a scenic route and great vibe.)
  2. Start a gym group with a few friends, colleagues or neighbours, so that you can keep each other accountable. (Great discounts at Vitality fitness partners mean you can kill two birds with one stone when it comes to resolutions, by saving money while exercising!)
  3. Consider, write out and envisage on your long-term goal, i.e. the reason you are exercising. This could be something like “I want to stay disease-free to grow old with my partner,” “I want to be healthy enough to keep up with my kids when playing,” or “I want to be physically able enough to tick off a bucket list item, like climbing Kilimanjaro”). Find a reason that will drive you, and not just motivate you!
  4. If you lapse, pick yourself up and just keep going. On days when you feel like quitting, take control and remember that the road to success is not an easy ride – this is precisely why you'll feel so empowered once you've attained your goal. Make the necessary schedule adjustments to prioritise your fitness goal, and watch how it can improve your quality of life. Once you've got into a regular routine, you'll feel more energised, handle stress better, sleep better, and before you know it – even lose some extra weight! Allow yourself to be surprised at what you're actually capable of.

Get #Ready2Retro in 2019

The coolest run in Cape Town is back and better than ever! Kickstart your 2019 with the Discovery Retro Run on Saturday, 9 February. This family-friendly fun run marks the start of the Discovery Get Active Weekend and offers brand new 5km and 8km routes around the scenic Cape Town Stadium.

The event will see more than 7 000 runners taking to the streets and the promenade to enjoy a retro-themed sunset run. So grab that neon headband and sign up for the Retro Run today!

SwimCycleRun at the Discovery Triathlon World Cup in Cape Town

The Discovery Triathlon World Cup Cape Town on Sunday, 10 February 2019 is the only ITU (International Triathlon Union) race that takes place on African soil. It forms part of the Discovery Get Active Weekend, which sees top-notch triathletes, multisport enthusiasts and novices enjoying an exciting day of swimming, cycling and running along the picturesque Atlantic Seaboard and iconic city landmarks. Enter today.

Enjoy getting active in a variety of ways with Vitality

Walk, run, cycle, swim, golf, race ... Vitality offers you many ways to get fit. Join a health club, link a fitness device to track your activity, take part in race events and join Team Vitality, our running and cycling club.

Like to hit the gym? Save up to 75% on your monthly gym fees and boost your savings up to a 100% with Vitality Active Rewards Gym Booster, or head outdoor and earn points for walks and runs. Learn more here.

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