Sticking with an exercise routine means being able to overcome the obstacles that invariably arise. A key to success is having the confidence that you can do it, researchers report. A new study explores how some cognitive strategies and abilities increase this "situation-specific self-confidence," a quality the researchers call "self-efficacy."
"You can apply the concept of self-efficacy to every single health behavior you can think of because in many ways that really is what gets us through the day, gets us through the tough times," said University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Edward McAuley
, who led the research. "People who are more efficacious tend to approach more challenging tasks, work harder and stick with it even in the face of early failures."
Those lacking self-efficacy often won't even try to start a new routine, or will quit at the earliest sign of difficulty, McAuley said. "Almost 50 percent of people who begin an exercise program drop out in the first six months," he said.
All is not lost, however, for those with low self-efficacy, McAuley said. Research has shown that there are ways to increase your confidence in relation to specific goals. Remembering previous successes, observing others doing something you find daunting and enlisting others' support can increase your self-efficacy enough to get you started. Every step toward your goal will further increase your confidence, he said.
In the new study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine
, McAuley and his colleagues were interested in whether specific cognitive abilities and strategies enhanced older adults' ability to stay with an exercise program by boosting their self-efficacy.
The researchers conducted a battery of cognitive tests on 177 men and women in their 60s and early 70s and also asked them whether and how often they set goals for themselves, monitored their progress, managed their time and engaged in other "self-regulatory" behaviors.