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    Study into Members’ Physical Activity and Motivation; Part 3



Study into Members’ Physical Activity and Motivation; Part 3

You Can Do It!…..Because You Believe You Can

In our recent study conducted into our members’ Exercise Intensions and Behaviours we proved this to be true! A factor that may significantly affect an individual’s capacity to achieve their physical activity goals is “self-efficacy”.


What is “self-efficacy”?

People with high “self-efficacy” view difficult tasks as challenges to be mastered, rather than as threats to be avoided. This outlook builds interest and deep engagement with activities (Bandura, 1994). Accordingly, these individuals set themselves challenging goals, maintaining commitment to them and they heighten and sustain their efforts in the event of any failures.

People high in “self-efficacy” attribute their failures to insufficient effort or knowledge and skills. However, they believe that they can work harder or learn the skills. They view threatening situations with confidence and they believe that they can exercise control over these situations.

Together, the attributes  produce higher levels of personal accomplishments and they produce lower levels of stress and vulnerability to depression compared to individuals with low levels of self-efficacy (Bandura, 1994).

On the other hand, people with low self-efficacy beliefs may shy away from difficult tasks viewing them as personal threats. They may have low aspirations and weak commitment to their personal goals. If they are faced with a difficult task they are more likely to dwell on their personal deficiencies, on the obstacles they may encounter, and all kinds of potential adverse outcomes rather than focussing on how to perform successfully.


How we stack up…

Tamasin Taylor, who is completing her doctoral thesis in psychology atUniversityofAuckland, completed a study recently into the exercise behaviour of our gym members here at True Women’s Fitness and Well-Being. As part of her study she asked a series on questions in the form of 2 questionnaires. The data that Tamasin collected shows an astounding story in regards to self-efficacy.

Members actual attendance (as measured by members swiping their membership cards on arrival) in May 2013 and over the four weeks following the first questionnaire was significantly predicted by member’s scores in self-efficacy.

So people with higher belief in their abilities to achieve their fitness goals had a higher attendance at the gym. There was a significant prediction between BMI and self-efficacy, meaning that people, who believed in their abilities, had lower BMIs! (This is hugely significant if your goal is weight loss. Potentially, if you want to lose weight you may firstly need to believe that you can!)

The results didn’t end there; people who had higher self-efficacy had higher levels of positive emotions and mental well-being and lower levels of depression, stress and anxiety.

So perhaps we should all be thinking about going on a self-efficacy diet because the good news is that it is actually possible to increase it, here’s how:


How to increase your self-efficacy

1. According to Bandura (1994) the most effective way of creating a strong sense of self-efficacy is through “mastery experiences”. An example of a mastery experience is when an individual gains success of a goal or skill. The theory is that successes over time, builds a robust belief in one’s self-efficacy whereas repetitive failures undermine it.

In the context of physical activity, a mastery experience may include slowly increasing one’s running time on the treadmill or slowly increasing strength by adding more weights in your weight-lifting program.

However, when people experience only successes that are easy to obtain, they come to expect quick results and are easily discouraged by failure. As such, a resilient sense of self-efficacy requires experience in overcoming obstacles through perseverant efforts and a certain amount of setbacks

Take home message for gym members is to concentrate on goals appropriate to you that are not too easy nor too difficult. Concentrate on small success and build your self efficacy! (Our trainers are skilled in coaching you to achieve “bite-sized” chunks for this very reason. This is also one of the main reasons that you should book in for your reassessments)


2. The second way that self-efficacy may be strengthened is through modelling yourself on someone who has had success. When you see someone similar to yourself succeed by their sustained effort this raises your self-belief that you too could possess the skills to master comparable activities to succeed.

A word of warning here though – It works the other way around too! Observing others’ fail despite their high effort lowers your self-judgements and self-efficacy.

The take home message here is to surround yourself with people who inspire you that you can relate to and don’t be shy about having discussions with other members and trainers at the gym about what they have overcome to get to where they are. If you have achieved a great success yourself, be friendly and offer encouragement to those you can see at the gym who are new or look like they need a boost.


3. Social persuasion is a third way of increasing your belief that you have the ability to succeed. A person can be persuaded that they do have the necessary capabilities to master a given activity.

The obvious example here is of the gym-trainer’s role in providing structured situations for clients to experience success and make sure they avoid situations currently too difficult that may cause failure. (Our ‘new client induction’ and our reassessments are designed to do this very thing!)

So make sure you take full advantage of what we offers in terms of providing regular reassessments with your trainer. Make sure you are happy and have confidence in your trainer. You should feel energised and motivated after your visit with your trainer. (Personal training and Tribe Team Training are a great way to experience this)


4. The fourth way of building self-efficacy is by being more self-aware. The manner in which a person “feels” physical and emotional states is seen as important in judging their capabilities to master an experience. From a psychological point of view negative emotions and stress is linked to lower self-efficacy. (If you find this is the case for you – sign up for our free Cognitive Behaviour Change Workshop starting in the new year – it will help you combat negative emotions, among other things!)

And from a physical point of view – it’s important to know that a lowered sense of self-efficacy may arise if a person interprets their fatigue, aches and pains after exercise as a sign of physical debility. It’s important to realise, especially if you are newly exercising that aches and pains are all part of the experience and that you should persevere as you are making progress. If you stay with it, it will get easier!

The take home message here is try to translate any strong feelings and tension while working out as giving you positive energy and evidence that you are making good progress.