Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found that when people set their own exercise goals -- instead of being told what to do -- they are more likely to stay with the program.

“Most behavior change programs involve goal-setting, but the best way to design that process is unknown,” says Dr. Mitesh Patel. “Our clinical trial demonstrated that physical activity increased the most when patients choose their goals rather than being assigned them, and when the goals started immediately rather than starting lower and gradually increasing over time. These findings are particularly important because the patients were from lower-income neighborhoods and may face a number of challenges in achieving health goals.”

People in the study were given personal step trackers and divided into groups. The group that set their own goals and started right away, increased activity levels the most and made the post positive changes.

The takeaway message for this is to empower people to set their own goals and start reaching for them now. Don't forget to check with your health care provider before starting any exercise program.

This study is published in JAMA Cardiology.

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