Tips on how to start and maintain Lifestyle Changes – Part 2

Welcome back! In our last post, we talked about what lifestyle changes are, along with some examples to get you started.

As we noted before, making changes in your routine or behaviour is easier said than done! Often, like New Year’s resolutions, these changes fall by the wayside within a few weeks.

Today, we are going to share some tips on how set yourself up for success from the beginning, and how to maintain those changes when the going gets tough!

How to get started…

Making changes to our routine and lifestyle is not something that happens spur of the moment. Making healthy choices requires conscious effort. Ultimately, we will not have the same motivation every day, or at all times of day.

So first things first, give yourself grace and permission to fail once in a while. It’s not a big deal! The important thing is to get up and try again, instead of giving up altogether 😊

Next, help yourself in advance! Make a specific plan that will give you clarity on what you want to achieve and how you will achieve it, so it can carry you through future obstacles that arise.

If you haven’t heard of SMART goals, this is a good time to brush up on them!

image of a post-it note that says "set goals" with to-do list and phones in background, to demonstrate SMART goal setting for lifestyle changes, by an Oakville Physio

S – be specific

What exactly would you like to achieve?

A lot of people might say “Exercise more”but that is too vague. What does that mean to you? What, when, where, how, and for how long? What about… exercise for 20 minutes, 3x week. Or… go for a fast-paced walk for half an hour every weeknight.

M – how can you measure your progress?

If you have a walking or running goal, it can be measured by how often in the week you go (frequency), the duration or distance covered, the speed, the effort exerted…

A – is this goal achievable?

If you don’t believe it is, modify it. What would make it achievable? If you had started with “lose 50 lbs in 3 months”, maybe change it to something more realistic like “lose 15-20 lbs in 3 months.”

R – is this goal relevant?

Is it relevant to your values and beliefs, or to a bigger picture goal?

If you want to quick smoking to manage your diabetes and hypertension, so you can reduce your reliance on medication and be healthy enough to keep up with your grandchildren, that makes sense.

If you are doing it just because you think you should, or other people are telling you to, then the motivation behind it might not be strong enough to see you through.

T – is it time-bound?

A time-bound goal is more likely to motivate you.

If you’d like to be fit enough to spend hours walking on your trip in Scotland in six months, or if you are training for a half-marathon scheduled in eight months, then that’s a clear deadline.

Based on that deadline, you can work your way backwards to create smaller checkpoints along the way to make sure you are improving. E.g. check-in with your progress at the end of every month, then plan out your next steps.

It’s a good idea to sign up for something before you feel ready (as long as you have a reasonable amount of time to get ready for it). When you’ve put money down and the date is set, you are more motivated to work on it!

Tips on how to keep going once you start!

  • Remember to start SMALL! As you progress, you can then take bigger steps, or add a second small goal. If your goal is to meditate regularly, know that starting with 20-30 minutes / day will likely not go well. Instead, start with 5 minutes and a timer. Then after 1-2 weeks, try 8 minutes, then 10 minutes, etc.
  • Focus on one behavioural or routine change at a time! The more you add at once, the less likely you are to succeed. However, it is reasonable that if you are starting with a small change, such as drinking more water, then perhaps a second change such as walking 3x week, can be added at the same time.
  • It is important to remember that lifestyle changes of any kind will take time and will benefit from the support of our loved ones. Even if people around you are not as supportive, you can find inspiration on social media accounts that reflect your interests and goals, as well as on podcasts and in books.

Support can take many forms. For example:

  • Having someone babysit the kids, or help with some household chores while you go to a yoga class
  • Meeting with friends at restaurants with healthier food options, or for a walk instead
  • Giving you encouragement instead of making negative comments
Boy growing shoing physio to kids, massage, foot clinic, wart treatment

To take this a step further, accountability is key. If you have no one to be accountable to, you’re much less likely to stick to your change. Examples can be:

  • A friend or family member you’ve asked for support beforehand
  • A social media group where you can post your progress regularly
  • A habit tracking app, because as the days add up it becomes more of a motivator to keep going! For example, DONE app allows five habits / time for free and can give reminders!


  • If you are looking to quit a habit, rather than adding one, consider replacing the unhealthy behaviour with a healthier one. This probably makes the most sense with food, or with too many hours of screen time.

How can Physio help?

If you do have health issues that may limit some lifestyle changes, do speak with your doctor about what may or may not be right for you.

When it comes to Physiotherapy, we can help if…

  • your lifestyle goals relate to getting more active,
  • or reaching a fitness goal safely
  • or you are returning to sport after an injury

…but you are limited by pain or injury, live with a chronic illness, or have recurrent injuries.

If you are still unsure if Physiotherapy is right for you, Contact us for more info. We are in the process of re-opening our physical doors which is very exciting!

shows woman receiving Telehealth / tele rehabilitation in Milton, Oakville, Burlington Ontario for pain.
Virtual therapy!

But in the meantime, virtual sessions are available and will continue to be so even after re-opening, for anyone who is immunocompromised, still keeping to social distancing, or located remotely.

Also, stay tuned for the last instalment of our guide on Lifestyle Changes! If making SMART goals is not working for you, or you find the idea overwhelming, we will be discussing a theme-based approach!