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Smart fitness goals


Before you start exercising you should think about what you are trying to accomplish. Setting realistic and measurable goals is a useful tool in starting and maintaining an exercise programme.

How can I make my fitness goals more attainable?

Telling yourself you are going to "start exercising and lose weight", does not give you anything precise and clear to work with, which can often be the cause of letting it drop.

However, if you say "I’ll do 20 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise such as biking or walking, 3 times a week for the next 3 months, in order to lose 10 kilos", you have a clearer plan in mind.

You can then adjust the goal if it seems you might not manage it exactly as hoped. Better to adjust a goal and keep on going than just feel defeated and pack it in!

There are three important components for any exercise routine.

1. Cardiovascular training ('cardio')

If you find yourself breathless at relatively low levels of activity, a cardiovascular workout would be beneficial to your heart and lungs.

To be considered cardiovascular, an activity must be rhythmic and continuous over a prolonged period of time - ideally around 20 minutes at a time. Some examples are: a brisk walk, jog, swim, bike ride etc.

For improvements in cardiovascular fitness, a minimum of three 20-minute sessions each week is recommended, although you can train as often as you like.

Incorporating music can help you get into the workout groove and fend off boredom.

2. Weight training (resistance training)

If increased strength and/or muscle size is the focus then resistance/weight training is the path to follow. This encourages the body to adapt by placing an increased demand on your muscles. Your body’s response to this new demand is an increase in strength and muscle size. This can be achieved by simply contracting a targeted muscle for five seconds or by using weights or everyday items such as paint or soup cans to contract the muscle fully.

In order to achieve continued gains you will need to increase the resistance or weight you use over time, since your body will become accustomed to the initial starting weight and will need to be constantly challenged.

An important thing to remember with resistance training is that unlike cardiovascular exercise, you shouldn’t work the same muscles every day. If you work a specific muscle or a set of muscles one day, you should not work those same muscles the next day. Always take a days rest between resistance training sessions so that the body has time to rest and recover.

However, if you are determined to see big improvements in your body shape, you can work different muscles on different days so that daily training is possible.

Whilst some people who have real difficulty building muscle choose to take steroids to increase muscle mass more easily, these should only be prescribed by a doctor, as the interactions with HIV medication could be significant.

Furthermore, the illegal purchase and use of medically unmonitored steroids could create a range of other mental and physical health problems. Better instead to focus on training for health and strength improvements, rather than the easy attainment of muscle for supposed pulling power.

In order to improve overall fitness levels it’s best to do a mixture of both cardiovascular and resistance training. However, please remember that if you are unwell, you should not do any strenuous exercise.

3. Flexibility (stretching)

Finally, flexibility is a major component of physical fitness that is often overlooked.

Overworked and tight muscles are uncomfortable and can eventually cause postural problems, which is why you should always stretch muscles thoroughly (10 to 20 seconds for each muscle group) after every exercise session. This will help keep your muscles in healthy balance with a full range of movement.

Next: Exercise and nutrition ››

‹‹ Back to: Combatting fatigue



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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 11/4/2016 by Anna Peters

Date due for the next review: 11/4/2019

Content Author: G. Brough

Current Owner: G. Brough

More information:

ACSM guidelines, American College of Sports Medicine 

HIV drug interactions, HIV Drug Interactions (2010)

ACSM position on use of anabolic steroids, American College of Sports Medicine