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Exercise

Realistic Goal Setting Helps People Stick With Exercise

Small, achievable goals may be more effective in helping sedentary adults maintain fitness programs than more challenging goals, according to results of a study of sedentary adults who set varying levels of fitness goals for an eight-week period.

As the prevalence of overweight and obesity increases among American children, signs of risk for chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases — previously thought of as adult disorders — are on the rise among youth.

Results of research that looked at body weight, fat distribution and physical fitness among 83 high school students in Colorado were presented today at the 52nd American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

Seventy-eight people were involved in the study: 48 women and 30 men, ranging in age from 30 to 58. All were inactive when they began the study. At the start of the research project, participants wore pedometers to measure the number of steps they took each day. This gave researchers a baseline number for each participant, which was an average of 5,510 steps per day.

Participants in the study were then randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group was given a goal of 10,000 steps a day. The other group was given a goal of increasing the number of daily steps by 2,500 over their baseline. A control group was also measured at the start of the study, but not given a goal to increase steps.

At the end of the eight-week study, both groups with goals to increase steps showed significant improvement in daily activity, as compared to the control group, which had no significant increase in activity. Those who set a goal of 10,000 steps per day averaged an increase of 3,036 steps over their baseline. Those with a goal of adding 2,500 steps had an increase of 2,879 steps each day.

"What’s most interesting is 42.3 percent of the people who set the smaller goal, increasing steps by 2,500, were able to stick to their goal on four out of seven days in the eight-week study," said Mark Davis, M.Ph., lead researcher. "Only 15.4 percent of those who had a goal of taking 10,000 steps per day met this goal on four days out of seven in the study period."

Davis pointed out that the goal of taking 10,000 steps a day is widely promoted as a measure of moderate physical activity. With the growing popularity of pedometers, many people use this 10,000 step number as a goal.

"Based on our study results, smaller goals, such as increasing daily steps by 2,500 steps at a time, might in fact be a more effective way to help people not only reach a desired physical activity goal, but also stick with it."

The results of the research were presented at the recent 52nd American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 20,000 international, national, and regional members are dedicated to promoting and integrating scientific research, education, and practical applications of sports medicine and exercise science to maintain and enhance physical performance, fitness, health, and quality of life.

For more information on the American College of Sports Medicine, www.acsm.org.


© 2005 Health Resources Publishing