Health Change: How To Develop an Action Plan. Part 2 of 4

September 14, 2022

By: Dr. Mary Rose Strickland
Physical Therapist | Lifestyle Medicine Practitioner

Last week you identified if you were ready for change, and how confident and important change is for you. If you have identified that you are considering a change, preparing for a change, or already making changes, you’re ready for Part 2. This week our mini-series on health change management will continue with how to develop an action plan.

There are a variety of areas to focus health change that can have positive impact on our mortality, health, and energy. From moving your body more, fueling your body with whole-food nutritious options, getting good sleep, avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol use, managing stress appropriately, and being socially connected to others, it can get very overwhelming very quickly.

  1. Physical Activity and Movement
  2. Nutrition and Fuel for my Body
  3. Sleep Quality and Quantity
  4. Tobacco and Alcohol Use
  5. Stress Management
  6. Social Connectedness

Use this list. Start by identifying which areas you can stand to improve. Make some notes of where you currently are. Write a priority list – what change is most important to you at this time and do you feel will give you the greatest outcome for your change buck? Which is the least important based on where you are currently at?

Next you are ready to write a goal. Start with your highest priority item. A goal should be specific, measurable, achievable, time bound and written down. Example: I will start walking 5 minutes a day for 5 days a week, increasing as tolerated up to the recommended amount of 150 minutes per week. Once you write the goal down, keep it out and close to your “why” list of why you are making this change. Focusing on 1 change at a time may be plenty, or you may consider adding a second or third goal. Keep in mind all should be focused on lifestyle modifications that can be sustained over a period of time.

Once you have your initial list of goal(s), consider what barriers are you likely to encounter and problem solve in advance how you can succeed. With our walking example: what if weather is bad – have back up plan that isn’t dependent on weather (treadmill, gym, walking around Walmart, etc). When will I do my walking? Schedule it and plan around that time/activity.

Share your goal with loved ones. Ask for their support and to check in with you weekly. Sharing your “why” behind your change can help make you more successful than simply sharing “what” change or goal you have written.

Health Change: Practical Application Tips

  • Step 1: Write down why you want to change. Post it in a spot you can see each day.
  • Step 2: Write a goal that is specific, measurable, achievable, and time bound. Share your goal and intentions with a loved one. Also post it in a spot that you can see.

Dr. Mary Rose Strickland is a physical therapist and certified Lifestyle Medicine provider. She is currently accepting lifestyle medicine clients where she can help identify areas of health change, work with you to set up a plan for success, and guide you through necessary change to achieve your health goals. Reach out to her at or call 608.742.9356 to get more information or schedule an initial lifestyle medicine consultation.