One goal of the Mood Walks project is for participants to recognize and utilize walking as a health-promoting tool they can use outside of the group. Goal-setting can be a great way for participants to link their participation in the walking group to changes they may want to make outside of the group.

Goal-setting can be also be an effective tool in helping participants stay motivated. Setting goals provides concrete proof of their successes, and helps them identify what a next milestone might be.

Mood Walks goal-setting may occur formally as a structured group session, or may occur outside of the group in one-to-one sessions, perhaps as part of an OCAN (Ontario Common Assessment of Need) assessment.

An Orientation to Mood Walks session can be a good opportunity to start setting goals with participants about what they would like to achieve. See “A Sample Orientation Session” — it contains tips and examples that may help you support participants in setting SMART goals. In addition, see the “My Mood Walks Goal” worksheet in the online Appendices.

In a recent Mood Walks survey, staff at community mental health agencies who had conducted a walking group identified including structured goal setting as something they would do differently next time!

Setting SMART Goals

“SMART” is an acronym often used when setting goals:

S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attainable
R = Realistic
T = Timely


Goals should be straightforward. Clearly define what you’re going to do by explaining:

What are you going to do?
Why is this important to do at this time? What do you want ultimately to accomplish?
How are you going to do it?

Instead of setting a goal to “lose weight” or “be healthier,” set a specific goal — for example, to walk five kilometres at an aerobically challenging pace.


Goals need to provide measurable progress, so you can see the change occur. How will you know when you reach your goal? Be specific! “I want to walk in my neighbourhood four times a week on my own before Victoria Day” shows the specific target to be measured. One’s progress on “I want to start walking” is not as measurable.


Goals should be within reach. You cannot commit for very long to working toward goals that are just too challenging. Aiming to lose 20 pounds in one week simply isn’t achievable. But setting a goal to lose one pound per week and then, when you’ve achieved that, to keep losing one more pound each week until you reach your (specific) healthy weight—that will keep the goal reachable.


Realistic, in this case, means doable: the skills needed to accomplish the goal are available, and the goal fits with your personal plans. A goal of conquering the most challenging trail in the area may not be realistic for someone who is new to walking. It may be more realistic to set a goal of completing the easier trail on regular basis, and then continuing to progress.


Set a timeframe for the goal: for next week, in three months, by my next birthday. Putting an endpoint on your goal (that is also measurable, attainable and realistic) gives you a clear target to work toward. If you don’t set deadlines for yourself, the commitment is too vague and there’s no urgency to begin taking action.

Source: Minding Our Bodies Toolkit

Ideas for Goals Related to Mood Walks

Participants are likely to attend the group for different reasons and will differ in terms of what they want to accomplish. Participants might set goals related to walking and physical health, or one related to participating in an activity beyond the group. For example, Mood Walks partners might have initiatives that participants could aim to join. Here are some ideas of participant goals directly related to Mood Walks, as well as strategies for working toward them.

Increase my ability to take on more physically demanding walks.

Make walking a regular component of my routine.

  • Use walking as a form of transportation to do a regular errand or attend appointments.
  • Take a short walk daily at a certain time, such as first thing in the morning or after dinner.
  • Make a weekly walking date with a friend or family member.

Attend group regularly.

  • Commit to attending a certain number of walks over the next ten weeks.

Socialize with group members.

  • Walk with a different group member for at least a portion of each week.
  • Make weekly reminder phone calls to a group buddy.

Take on a leadership role within the group.

  • Plan one walk for the group, and explain the route.
  • Be in charge of welcoming new members or maintaining the group bulletin board.

Explore new places to walk.

  • Try out one new street per week.
  • Check out one new park or trail per month.

Become part of the walking/hiking/conservation community.

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