Are our abilities pushed (or pulled down) by psychological prowess? Yes, says a Canadian study that suggests the amount of physical exercise a person indulges in is directly proportional to his/her self-perceived ability and extent of desire to work-out.
Published in the open access journal BMC Public Health, the study involved 5167 people.
It showed that psychological concerns were the most important barriers to an active lifestyle.
Lead researcher Sai Yi Pan, from the Public Health Agency of Canada, revealed that the study examined data from a nationwide series of telephone interviews.
"Our findings highlight the need for health promotion programs to enhance people's confidence and motivation, as well as providing education on the health benefits of physical activity," she said.
One of the questions asked to the participants was how confident they were that they could regularly do a total of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (PA) three or four times a week, and a total of 60 minutes of light physical activity each day.
According to the researchers, this 'self-efficacy' score was consistently found to be related to higher physical activity across gender, age group, education level and family income level.
"Confidence in one's personal ability to carry out exercise plays a central role in the direction, intensity and persistence of health-behaviour change. People who have higher PA self-efficacy will perceive fewer barriers to PA, or be less influenced by them, and will be more likely to enjoy PA," write the authors.
The participants were also asked to what extent they intended to be physically active over the next six months, and the 'intention score' was another important independent correlate of physical activity.
The authors said that the strong effects of self-efficacy and intention on physical activity suggested that interventions designed to increase it should target such factors.
"Future research is needed to identify how those influences can be optimally incorporated into interventions that will increase people's belief in their ability and motivation/intention to be physically active," they concluded.