APU Health & Fitness

Here’s to a SMART Health Plan and a Healthy You in 2018!

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Learn more about public health degrees at American Public University.

By Dr. Ebun Ebunlomo
Associate Professor, Public Health, American Public University

At the beginning of the New Year, we all tend to be more reflective and determined to make a few changes in our lives. We have great expectations to be better versions of ourselves as New York’s Times Square ball drops at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

However, our New Year’s resolutions often don’t last. There are many reasons why our resolutions are short-lived. An all-encompassing solution lies in the acronym SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound).

Experts in organization development, business, human resource management and performance improvement use the SMART framework to craft performance goals and objectives. As individuals, we can use the SMART philosophy to improve our health.

Here’s a quick list of questions to ask yourself as you examine your New Year’s resolutions for 2018:

S = Specific Health Goals

It’s great that you have resolved to make good health a priority. But a few specific details would enhance that goal.

  • How many pounds do you need to lose?
  • How much do you need to cut back on eating out?
  • How much exercise do you want to incorporate daily? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that you get at least 75 minutes of moderate to rigorous physical activity or 150 minutes of light to moderate physical activity weekly.

M = Measurable Health Goals

How would you know that you have successfully made your health a priority? Determine how you will measure your goals. For example:

  • What metrics are most important to you?
  • Do you determine your fitness by the number of pounds lost or by a reduced waistline/how your clothes fit?

Along with creating specific goals, add concrete indicators of success to track your progress from your current state of health to the achievements you desire.

A = Achievable Health Goals

Are your goals realistic? Don’t set yourself up for failure by being overzealous.

Instead, anticipate roadblocks and factor in life’s curveballs too. For weight loss, one to two pounds a week is an ideal goal.

R = Relevant Health Goals

  • How does your goal relate to your current life situation or health status?
  • For healthy living, is weight loss relevant to your current status?
  • In which areas do you need the most help or improvement? Maybe you are already at your ideal weight, but you need to prioritize your mental health. Mental health is an aspect of well-being that is often ignored. But mental health is so important (especially during the holidays) as it influences our ability to make good choices for a healthy and productive lifestyle, and to manage life’s stressors and challenges well.

T = Time-Bound Health Goals

When will you achieve the goals you have set for yourself? Pace yourself, but maintain a good balance.

You should feel some pressure to pursue your goal, but not too much that you disappoint yourself. However, setting a goal to lose 10 pounds by Thanksgiving might be too long of a time span.

Other Tips for Reaching Your Health Goals

In addition to ensuring that your New Year’s health resolutions are SMART, here are some additional tips that I have found helpful over the past few years.

1) Set checkpoints: Perform daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly checks. Having routine checkpoints allows you to reflect and re-evaluate to ensure you are moving in the right direction.

2) Keep your goals in plain sight: I’m sure you have heard the adage, “out of sight, out of mind.” Use sticky notes, cell phone apps or even a whiteboard to keep your goals visible and in front of you. I use different colors on a whiteboard to categorize and track my goals.

3) Map out your path: Say you want to lose 20 pounds before your next birthday. How will you get there? It’s not good enough just to set goals. You need to come up with tactics, a road map, and “stops” or milestones to guide you.

4) Start early: Don’t wait until December 31, 2018, to start thinking about your 2019 resolutions. As you accomplish your goals, start drafting new goals that you can begin refining or working toward, even before another New Year’s ball drops in Times Square.

5) Share your goals: If your goals are not too personal, consider sharing them with your loved ones so they can hold you accountable. That creates a conducive environment to help you along the way so you can throw a party to celebrate when you reach your goals.

Learn more about public health degrees at American Public University.

About the Author

Dr. Ebun Ebunlomo, MPH, MCHES, PHR, is a trained scholar in health promotion and health education, with over 10 years of experience developing, implementing and evaluating public health programs in clinical, community and work-site settings. She previously was an evaluation fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. She received her Ph.D. in Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, with minors in Epidemiology and Leadership/Management from the University of Texas School of Public Health.

Susan Hoffman is a Managing Editor at APU Edge, whose articles have appeared in multiple publications. Susan is known for her expertise in blogging, social media, SEO, and content analytics, and she is also a book reviewer for Military History magazine. She has a B.A. cum laude in English from James Madison University and an undergraduate certificate in electronic commerce from American Public University.

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