A recent study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine revealed basic tools that increased the likelihood of the subjects studied to be successful and consistent in their exercise programs. Conducted at the University of Illinois, the study defined self-efficacy as “situation-specific self-confidence.” This confidence marks the difference between people who start and quit exercise programs and people who stick with the program and experience success. People with self-efficacy also tend to take on more challenging tasks than those lacking in it. According to the study, 50% of people who start an exercise program will quit within 6 months.
Edward McAuley, who led the team of researchers, says however there is hope for those lacking in self-efficacy. Like exercise itself, it is something that can be practiced and strengthened. Many qualities of group workout programs, like having other people to support you and witnessing the success of others were actually found to be keys to developing self-efficacy. Remembering your own previous successes can also help you continue moving forward.
McAuley’s new study specifically looks at the role of “executive function” in exercise success. Executive function is measured by observing the ability to multi-task and to inhibit undesirable responses. A higher ability in these two areas was proven to increase self-efficacy and therefore also increase the likelihood of sticking with an exercise program. Executive function can be supported by practicing tools such as time management, goal setting, and enrolling others in your support base.
Executive function and self-efficacy go hand in hand in regards to a subject’s success in exercise. While some people are naturally higher in both these qualities, the good news is they can be practiced and trained. By knowing what contributes to success in an exercise program, people can now practice self-regulatory tools and skills to aid in actually achieving that success.