Sunday, December 23, 2007

Self-Efficacy, Physical Exercise, and Goal Attainment

A wide range of research finds that physical exercise that improves aerobic conditioning improves both mood and self-esteem. Such exercise also has distinctive health benefits and helps reduce state anxiety and other forms of emotional distress.

One study, however, suggests that the link between aerobic conditioning and psychological well-being is due to a placebo effect: subjects who are specifically told that their exercise will help their psychological state show much greater improvements in well-being than those going through the same program and not told of the link.

An interpretation of this latter finding is that improvements in self-efficacy, not just aerobic conditioning per se, might be responsible for the link between exercise and psychological well-being. Research suggests that beliefs about the health benefits of exercise are often responsible for people starting their workout routines, but that improvements in self-efficacy are responsible for *continuing* these routines.

Self-efficacy--the belief that one is capable of engaging in positive actions and reaching desired goals--may thus be important to sustaining an exercise regime, but may also be the result of such routines. This creates a virtuous circle, in which efficacious actions enhance the sense of efficacy, which, in turn, fuel further goal-oriented behavior.

These research results hold a number of implications. First, it may be fruitless to engage in coaching and counseling efforts if one is lacking the basic self-efficacy beliefs needed to sustain goal-directed action. Stated otherwise, it may be important to first improve self-efficacy beliefs with immediate, emotionally-impactful experiences of efficacy before tackling larger life goals. Does it really make sense, for example, to help someone improve their trading discipline when, in fact, that person does not possess the self-efficacy needed to sustain personal discipline in other aspects of life?

Another, subtle implication is that programs designed to enhance self-efficacy in one arena may spill over and fuel self-efficacy in other areas of life. A sustained exercise program, for instance, may fuel the self-efficacy needed to tackle changes in one's relationship life or trading. Nothing so promotes goal-seeking as goal attainment: by tackling goals in a variety of life areas, a more general sense of self-efficacy--impelling further achievement--may result.

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2 comments:

Anatrader said...

Brett

With festive eating and drinking today on the eve of X'mas for many, your post is timely.

Self-efficacy is the belief and conviction that one can successfully perform a given activity.

A study shows that patient compliance with exercise prescriptions is more likely to be successful if exercise self-efficacy is assessed and enhanced.

Hence, what you said:
...improvements in self-efficacy are responsible for *continuing* these routines

jeff said...

A timely post indeed. Too bad you told us about the placebo effect, though :)