Healthbeat

Launch your workout plan: Getting motivated and setting goals

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There is no question that regular exercise is essential to good health. That fact alone is enough motivation for some folks. For others, setting meaningful personal goals — whether it's finishing a 10K race or getting back into those jeans you love — and keying into what motivates you can help launch a successful workout program.

Motivation takes many forms, so find the carrot (or stick) that works for you. Maybe you'd like to get ready to tackle new activities, like climbing a towering rock wall, churning through the water during a triathlon, or making it 26.2 miles in a marathon. Perhaps you just hope to feel fit and good about your body. Maybe a friendly bet with a spouse or friend — loser pays for kayaking lessons — or wanting to hold up your end of the bargain with a new exercise partner will do the trick.

Hiring a personal trainer or tapping a buddy for workouts or walks can supply motivation. Friends who can cheer you on and hold you accountable to your plan help, too. And most of us enjoy a reward, so make a list of (ideally non-food) rewards for meeting weekly or daily goals. One reward is simply seeing progress, so consider tracking your progress regularly. Whether you are running more miles, lifting heavier weights, not getting out of breath when you take the stairs, or shopping for a smaller belt, write it down or use one of the many fitness apps available for your phone, tablet, or computer.

Setting exercise goals can change idle hopes into reality — especially if you put some supports in place.

For more ways to incorporate an effective workout program into your life, buy Workout Workbook, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

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