Small goals for a fitter you | Health beat

Incorporating a few push-ups into your daily activities can lead to greater success if you gain confidence. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Most people have romanticized major fitness goals.

They vowed to run a marathon, dreamed of hiking Denali, or longed to push their body weight on the bench – usually all while sitting on the couch.

Goal setting experts say that while these big ambitions really motivate some people, they don’t help many.

Like abandoned New Year’s resolutions, these demoralizing setbacks can convince people that they can never get fit again.

That is why more and more experts are advocating setting tiny goals and then skillfully linking them to behaviors that you are already doing.

The idea of ​​starting small has of course always been around. But the approach has caused quite a stir, fueled in part by the publication of Tiny Habits, a book by the behavioral scientist at Stanford University BJ Fogg.

For Fogg, the big change began with toilet breaks – and a promise to do two push-ups every time he used the toilet. As he suspected, the energy motivated him to achieve this small goal.

Soon he was not only doing more pushups, but also adjusting his diet.

He eventually lost 20 pounds.

The butterfly effect

It helps to envision these smaller steps related to the butterfly effect, according to Phillip Adler, PhD, manager of the Spectrum Health Group’s sports training team.

It may be just right for those who doubt themselves based on a history of failed fitness goals.

The physical changes are initially imperceptible. But minor actions trigger a chain of good feelings – a term that experts call self-efficacy – that can lead to further changes.

“The hardest part is getting started,” said Dr. Eagle.

The first step? Be honest about what you like and what you don’t.

“If you don’t enjoy running, you won’t be able to motivate yourself to train for 3 miles even if you think you should,” he said.

Instead, he suggests looking for things you’re already doing and then combining them with something new, much like doing a push-up or two with every toilet break.

At some point, small behaviors become habits. And the more effortless they get, the better you will feel about fitness and the more likely you will be to make additional changes.

Some of Adler’s favorites:

One-legged balance habit

“Balance becomes more and more important as you get older,” said Dr. Eagle. “And we often don’t pay much attention to it.”

He lifts one foot slightly off the floor when brushing his teeth or washing dishes. Try to work for up to 30 seconds at a time. “With these small movements you don’t necessarily build strength, but you strengthen your feeling for Proprioception,” he said.

Once it becomes a habit? “Start adding some heel raises between the one-legged stands.”

Step Boosting Habit

“Make a commitment to park at the far end of the supermarket parking lot,” he said. Would you like to swap? Once inside, put in an extra round, from the products to the milk duct.


Try to notice if you always start stairs with the same leg – and then try to consciously switch. “And try walking down the stairs two times slower than you went up to focus on leg strength,” said Dr. Eagle. “You may have to hold onto the railing first, but eventually try without it.”

Add more movement by creating additional staircases and descents.

Habit to sit down

Since most of us spend the day sitting and then standing, try turning them into squats. “Every time you sit in your desk chair, get up and sit down again.”

Notice how much you rely on your hands and arms to get up and down: can you stand up to stand or lower to sit without them?

Trade up to a few wall squats a few times a day.


It takes a few minutes for the coffee to brew, the toast to burst or the microwave to beep. Use this time for counter-push-ups or gentle stretching.


Use commercial breaks to hold a plank and increase core strength. Squeeze your glutes and try to hold for 20 to 30 seconds.

All of these movements are unlikely to be invisible to anyone but you, he said. “But they feel like private victories.”

One piece of advice when trying these activities is to keep your eyes peeled for the price.

Once these habits are solidified and you are closer to larger fitness goals, it is a good idea to look at the bigger picture.

Another team from Researcher, also from Stanford University, gave the subjects a mundane office project and then divided them into three groups.

Those given sub-goals significantly outperformed those who had only shown the project’s grand goal, with more than 39% achieving the goal, compared to about 34% of those who had only the end goal.

But a hybrid group that continuously checked both the sub-goals and the desired end result achieved the best implementation with around 57%.

The point of all these mind games? Shake off the all-or-nothing thinking that is sabotaging fitness efforts for so many people.

“When you start focusing on small gains, you are less likely to say, ‘If I get on the treadmill, I have to do it for 30 minutes or it doesn’t count,'” said Dr. Eagle. “Even five minutes are a plus.”

Thank You For Reading!


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