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Staying Motivated: Using Goal Setting and Social Supports

Beginning a fitness journey can be both exhilarating and demanding, particularly for those new to exercise. Motivation and consistency form the cornerstone of sustained success in any fitness routine. Setting goals and leveraging social support can influence motivation to exercise, and there are techniques available to enhance motivation. This post dives into research-supported methods to maintain your commitment to your exercise goals, ensuring you not only embark on an exercise program, but also maintain adherence in the long run.

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

Some of the factors that can affect the motivation to stick to goals and achieve them are intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation drives individuals based on personal internal desires or needs, such as the desire to become healthier and live longer, prompting them to exercise.

Extrinsic motivation, stems from external factors, like exercising for attractiveness. The desire to appeal to others drives extrinsic motivation.

Process-oriented vs. Outcome vs. Performance Goals

Goals can be categorized as: process-oriented goals, outcome goals, and performance goals.

Process-oriented goals focus on engaging in the activity itself, and are within the person’s control. For example, a person can maintain a regular gym routine by going to the gym every week.

In contrast, outcome oriented goals are centered on the end result like losing 10lbs of weight.

Performance goals emphasize the performance of an activity. For example, a person might set a goal to run 5KM in 20 minutes.

Wilson and Brookfield (2009) finds that process-oriented goals leads to people enjoying completing their goals more than outcome oriented goals. Wilson and Brookfield (2009) also find that people with process-oriented goals also have higher intrinsic motivation than people with outcome oriented goals.

Impact of Goal Types on Exercise Goal Adherence

The nature of a goal, driven by extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, can significantly influence exercise adherence.

Wilson & Brookfield (2009) finds that process-oriented goals are driven by higher intrinsic motivation and leads to a stronger commitment. Exercisers who adopted process-oriented goals demonstrated not only higher adherence during an exercise program, but also maintained adherence after the study concluded (Wilson & Brookfield, 2009).  This suggests that process-oriented goals can lead to better exercise habits.

In a different study on the exercise motivation of gym students by Vansteenkiste et al. (2004), goals set with extrinsic motivation in mind, leads to less adherence compared to goals set by intrinsic motivation. Vansteenkiste et al. (2004) suggest that by highlighting the future health benefits of exercise to gym students, it can lead to better intrinsic motivation and adherence to completing fitness goals.

Other Exericse Goal Setting Considerations

In a literature review by Jeong et al. (2023), they suggest that goal setting should be a careful process, as the results found in a lab-based setting might be different than the real-world. Jeong et al. (2023) provide suggestions in the context of athlete training and suggest that goals should be monitored closely with purposeful feedback when needed. Jeong et al. (2023) recommend that goal setting for athletes should be collaborative, meaning that coaches should also help intervene and modify goals when an athlete may be struggling to ensure goal achievement.

Key Takeaway

The use of goal setting can be an excellent tool. Research suggests that intrinsically motivated goals that focus on the process of exercise improves adherence (Wilson & Brookfield, 2009). That being said, goal setting should also be collaborative to ensure goal achievement (Jeong et al., 2023). 

Social Support and Professional Guidance as a Complement to Goal Setting

In addition to goal setting, the use of social support and professional coaching can be used to boost motivation and adherence. Incorporating attendance tracking, offering social support, and focusing on dietary modification have better adherence can significantly boost adherence to a fitness regimen (Lemstra et al., 2016). Using a program that supervises and monitors attendance not only improves adherence by 65% compared to self-directed programs, but also provides safe, effective instruction and builds self-confidence in one’s ability to perform an exercise (Lemstra et al., 2016).

Key Takeaway

Integrating group classes, a workout partner, or professional coaching can significantly enhance your commitment to your fitness journey (Lemstra et al., 2016).

Conclusion: Your Path to Fitness Success

Embarking on a fitness journey with intrinsic motivation, process-oriented goals and the right support system sets you on a path to success. By setting goals that focus on the process and understanding the benefits of the goal, it can help increase your consistency and achievement of your goals. Achieveing fitness is a continuous journey, not just a one-time effort.

If you are in Edmonton, and want help with achieving your fitness goals, feel free to reach out to our clinic. We offer free consulations for one-on-one training and we can help design a safe and effective workout regimen that helps you achieve a lifelong healthy lifestyle.


Jeong, Y. H., Healy, L. C., & McEwan, D. (2023). The application of goal setting theory to goal setting interventions in sport: A systematic review. International review of sport and exercise psychology, 16(1), 474-499.

Lemstra, M., Bird, Y., Nwankwo, C., Rogers, M., & Moraros, J. (2016). Weight loss intervention adherence and factors promoting adherence: a meta-analysis. Patient preference and adherence, 1547-1559.

Vansteenkiste, M., Simons, J., Soenens, B., & Lens, W. (2004). How to become a persevering exerciser? Providing a clear, future intrinsic goal in an autonomy-supportive way. Journal of Sport and exercise Psychology, 26(2), 232-249.

Wilson, K., & Brookfield, D. (2009). Effect of goal setting on motivation and adherence in a six‐week exercise program. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 7(1), 89-100.

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Josh Langkamp

Josh is a highly skilled and committed strength and conditioning coach with a wealth of experience in physical performance enhancement and optimization. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from the University of Alberta as well as a CSCS certification from the NSCA. His perspective is enriched by his background as a boxer and his love of sports like football and hockey. Josh places a strong emphasis on individualized care and thinks that the secret to reaching objectives is well-planned exercise. Josh is a dependable guide for improving athletic performance and fitness, with aspirations to advance in his physiotherapy career.