Skip to main content
New Year’s Resolutions Your Physical Therapist Wants You to Stick To

New Year’s Resolutions Your Physical Therapist Wants You to Stick To

by Tanner Neuberger, PT, DPT, TDN Level 11 Comment

With the New Year well underway, there are many individuals committed to New Year’s resolutions. Of course, it’s easy to come up with some simple ones and say you’ll stick with them, but reality is often different than our intentions, with sources showing that a large percentage of people give up on their resolutions by February. The good news is that recent research has shown that those of us who pick an approach-oriented goal (new behavior) will be more successful than those who pick an avoidance-oriented goal (trying to stop something).

This year, I want you to pick two resolutions/goals to stick to for easier adherence and application. This will make sure that you aren’t putting too much extra stress on yourself and will easily allow you to track your successes. After all, you can always add another goal if you achieve your resolution. Choose one resolution for fitness and one for nutrition, as these will have the largest impact on your overall health. For the largest impact on long-term success, pick a partner or two to complete these resolutions with and hold each other accountable. Outlined below is the process for developing a SMART goal, the same ones therapists can use for their patients, to help you increase your chance for successful resolutions this year.

Setting SMART Goals

Developing SMART goals is a system of steps to complete when coming up with a goal to increase your probability of success. They’re easy to fill out and a great way to increase adherence to your goal. SMART is an acronym, and each letter corresponds to a facet of goal-writing. You will write a general goal, and apply the SMART process to improve upon that goal. For instance, you might have a goal of “I want to exercise more.” With the SMART process, you will be able to improve upon the general goal we just came up with.

S- Specific

Think Who/What/Where/When/Why. This is your mission statement portion of the goal. How can you make your exercise goal more specific? Why are you wanting to exercise more? What can you do to increase the amount of your exercise? Instead of saying “I want to exercise more,” you can be more specific and say “I want to exercise three times per week.” Further, you can add more specificity by adding “I want to exercise three times per week in order to lose 15lbs.” This gives you a framework and a purpose to your goal-writing.

M- Measurable

How are you going to measure the success of your goal? Is it something that you can measure? For the “I want to exercise three times per week in order to lose 15lbs” goal, you can keep a calendar to mark off how many times a week you are exercising. This is an easy way to track how often you are actually putting forth the effort into working out. For the weight loss portion of the goal, you can set a time frame to consistently weigh yourself to track your progress, ideally once every 1-2 weeks.

A- Achievable

Ask yourself – is this a goal I can realistically achieve? You want to be specific with your goal, but you also want to be realistic. The loftier your goal, the higher likelihood of giving up due to the sheer magnitude of what you are trying to achieve. Progress will stall at some point, and it’s important to stay motivated with achievable goals.

R- Relevant

Making sure the goal is relevant is an easy way to improve adherence as well. If you want to have a goal of exercising more, the goal should include what you will do to attain that goal. You shouldn’t include a new television series you are wanting to watch. This is not relevant to your fitness goal and would detract from it.

T- Time-bound

Adding a deadline will help with adherence, and improve your chances of completing the goal as written. For our example of “I want to exercise three times per week in order to lose 15lbs,” you would include a time component to increase the specificity of your goal. Your goal would now be “I want to exercise three times per week in order to lose 15lbs by June 1st.” This gives you a time frame to work with, and this will be easier to hold yourself accountable. With this example you could break our weight loss goal into monthly increments to improve adherence and make our goal more achievable. Our 15 lbs. goal by June 1st would then become 3lbs per month by June 1st. 3lbs may be an easier number to achieve versus a daunting 15lbs.

My final advice for writing your goals is to start small and progress slow. There will be bumps along the way, and guaranteed set-backs and halts in progress, so be kind to yourself throughout this process. Once you have written your initial goal, take it through the SMART process and come up with something more specific to tailor to your needs.

If a goal of yours is to be more active and you start to experience any aches or pains, access Athletico’s Free Assessments. A licensed healthcare professional will assess your pain or injury and point you in the right direction for your recovery. Free assessments are available in-clinic and virtually via our Telehealth platform.

Request a Free Assessment

Physical therapy is usually the thing you are told to do after medication, x-rays or surgery. The best way to fix your pain is to start where you normally finish – with physical therapy at Athletico.

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

1. Oscarsson, Martin, et al. “A Large-Scale Experiment on New Year’s Resolutions: Approach-Oriented Goals Are More Successful than Avoidance-Oriented Goals.” PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science,

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

1 Comment

  1. Gloria Purifoy

    I am an employee with Chicago Public Schools and have HMO Blue Cross Blue Shield. Should I seek a referral from my primary physician to access services, and are services covered by insurance if seeking proactive physical therapy vs. therapy post-procedure, injury, etc?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *