Help Patients Set Realistic Goals

Setting goals is a key part of improving health through better fitness. Unfortunately, most patients either haven't considered setting fitness goals, or have unrealistic goals with no action plan.

Help your patients succeed with goals they can achieve:

  • Keep goals simple, measurable and incremental. Small successes build momentum.
  • Establish goals that are specific and actionable. Encourage your patients to think beyond general goals, such as "being more active," "eating less junk food" or "getting less stressed out." Help your patients define what those mean: "Walk for 15 minutes at lunchtime five days a week." "Drink water instead of a sugary drink at least once a day." "Take 10 minutes to listen to music before I wake the kids up in the morning."
  • Have patients define the direction of their goals. Encourage them to choose behaviors they want to change. Help them identify activities they'll enjoy and are confident they can stick with.
  • Don't forget to consider emotional well-being goals. Patients who have emotional issues -- such as anxiety, depression or stress -- that present barriers to lifestyle changes may need to resolve some of those problems before setting physical activity and healthy eating goals.
  • Make goals meaningful. Whether goals are focused on physical activity, healthy eating or emotional well-being, help patients define why they're making a change -- perhaps to keep up with kids, feel better about themselves, lose weight, reduce the cost of medications, etc.
  • Document goals and have patients sign them, as well, as a statement of your mutual commitment to working together.
  • Schedule follow-up visits to evaluate progress and modify goals or set new ones.