Do you feel like you work hard but still don’t make significant progress towards your health goals? Wouldn’t it be great, instead, if you could clarify your thoughts, set specific targets, figure out where to focus your efforts and make progress in a measurable way? In essence, learn how to set SMART health goals? Are you eating right? Working out? Saying ‘no’ to desserts? And still stuck where you’re at? Don’t be disheartened. You are not alone!

Most people who decide to make changes to their health set some goals, get started with a few action steps, but then seem to get stuck and don’t make steady, consistent progress. According to Tony Robbins, “Progress equals happiness.” The goal point seems to move further and further away. More often than not, it’s not about a lack of desire or motivation. It’s just that they haven’t set smart goals.

Is there a secret to setting ‘smart’ health goals?

When we think of setting goals, we generally come up with ideas like like ‘I will start exercising’ and ‘I will eat better’. But these are difficult goals to chase because they are non-specific and really can’t be measured. It’s difficult to know what ‘start exercising’ really means and it’s even more difficult to follow. When should you start exercising? Is the upcoming weekend okay? How much exercise? How often? This goal… just like wanting to eat better… is ambiguous and treacherous because it lets you veer from the path. More importantly, it does not hold you accountable to any real targets either. Basically, this is how one ends up feeling betrayed by the process… because these sorts of goals don’t really work.

Dart Board indicating the idea of setting smart health goals

This is exactly where setting ‘smart’ health goals comes in. Let’s say your end destination is to lose 5 kg weight. You would need to break that eventual goal down into smaller goals and specific steps first. This could be a smaller set of goals like:

“I will meet my protein target each day.”

“I will walk 6,000 steps on all weekdays.”

“I will not consume more than 2 tsp of sugar per day.”

“I will do 3 x 45 min resistance workouts per week.”

And so on.

These smaller specific goals have the following S.M.A.R.T. things in common:

They are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.


Set your goal such that it’s very clear what you are aiming for.

Goals need to be detailed and specific so that you know exactly what you need to do. Vague goals, on the other hand, can be rather overwhelming. “I want to walk more,” is too broad to be really useful. On the other hand, “I will walk in my neighbourhood park for 30 minutes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning for the next two months” is a specific, actionable goal that you can actually achieve.


Make your goal one you can measure in terms of effort.

Instead of saying, “I want to get fit.” say, “I will exercise for 45 minutes, three days a week.” In doing so, you will have a very measurable action to perform for a specific period of time and you will know when you have achieved your goal. In short, your goals should include a quantity of ‘how much’ or ‘how many’ to know when you have reached your objective.


Your goal has to be something you will realistically be able to do.

Getting started on a health or fitness goal can be exciting and it’s easy to get caught up in the many possibilities and outcomes. But it’s important to make sure that you’re not setting yourself up for failure with a target that’s too ambitious. For e.g., while it may be possible to train to increase your endurance over a couple of weeks, it may not be possible to train to run a marathon in that short period of time, if you haven’t been running consistently. Make your goals just a little bit out of reach so that you can stretch your capabilities to achieve them and then move the goal post a little bit further each time you get to it.

Relevant & Realistic

Set your goal to be something that is practical and purposeful.

It should be relevant for you and your current set of circumstances. For e.g., it would be realistic to to commit to going to bed 15 min earlier than each previous night until you reach your desired bedtime goal if a lack of adequate sleep is interfering with your health. Having a purpose that ties in with your larger beliefs about health will help you to stick to your action steps and eventually achieve your goals.


It’s very important to set a time-frame to achieve your goals.

Putting a start and end date to your goals, or a fixed time to work on the action steps gives you a sense of accountability. It’s easier to commit to and take action on a goal when there is a specific time frame involved. Instead of saying “I want to be more flexible” say, “I will do a guided stretching routine for 15 minutes, every day, for the next 6 weeks.” This will help you know exactly when you need to work on your goals and help you make progress towards achieving them.


As you can see, S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym to tell you how to set smart health goals that detail exactly what you need to do. Setting health goals using this method, taking measurable action, stretching your comfort zone and celebrating small wins along the way are a great way to set and achieve your health and fitness goals.

Some additional tips:

Once you have set up some smart health goals for yourself using the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting method, use these additional tips to stay focussed and moving forward: Break big goals into smaller ones. This will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed by overly large goals and help you feel a sense of achievement along the way.

  • Build a support system. It’s fun to set goals with friends or family members, and encourage each other to keep making progress along the way.
  • Monitor your progress. Set up regular reminders, or commit to let a friend of family member know how you’re doing.
  • Use visual reminders. It helps to keep an inspirational photo or quote or written goal in constant view as a constant reminder of what you want to achieve.
  • Celebrate small successes along the way….because setting and achieving smart health goals is something worth celebrating!