I have learned a lot about setting goals from interacting with my smartwatch! The S.M.A.R.T. approach to setting goals has been around far longer than smartwatches, but the watches demonstrate perfectly the basic S.M.A.R.T. concepts originally created in 1981 by George T. Doran as a management tool but relevant for any type of goal.

You can use the S.M.A.R.T. approach just as well with lo-tech pen and paper, but here is how my computerized watch helps me to set goals specifically for physical activity:

Specific: Clearly state the goal you want to achieve. Previous vague promises to myself to increase physical activity did not work. My watch defines specific goals for each day: 30 minutes of exercise, one minute per hour of standing, and 300 calories worth of movement. Plus it reports my number of steps for the day!

Measurable: Each day my watch measures and tells me what I’ve achieved in each category of activity, e.g., number of minutes I’ve spent exercising and standing and number of calories burned in general movement, using three rings to show my progress. For example, if I’ve exercised for 30 minutes, the watch alerts me with slight pressure to my wrist, a faint chime, and the quick flash of a swirling green celebratory ring. It then provides a brief message, e.g., “You’ve reached your exercise goal, Peggy! Good work!” Personalized feedback and positive reinforcement help!

Attainable: The watch was calibrated to set initial goals based on my size and age. At first, my movement goal was 230 calories/day. I consistently achieved that, so the watch upped it to 300 calories, attainable but with a bit more challenge.

Realistic: I have to admit, I don’t always make my goals. However, my watch doesn’t berate me when I slip up. Next day, it encourages me by reminding me I completed a weekly goal, or that I still have time to meet today’s.

Time-related: Everything stops at midnight, when all three progress rings in whatever stage of completion melt away, and I am back to square one. I can refer to my weekly or monthly log, which helps me see the patterns of my activity, providing more feedback to help me adjust my exercise habits.

Before deciding on your own fitness goals, discuss them with your healthcare provider first. Happy goal-setting!

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