Struggling to stick with an exercise routine? New US research suggests that, just as when faced with challenges in other aspects of life, whether or not you can overcome obstacles in your workout regime could boil down to confidence.
"Almost 50 percent of people who begin an exercise program drop out in the first six months," said University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Edward McAuley, who led the research. His assumption? A lack of a quality he refers to as "self-efficacy," or "situation-specific self-confidence."
"People who are more efficacious tend to approach more challenging tasks, work harder, and stick with it even in the face of early failures," adds McAuley in a statement on August 16.
If you fall a little short in self-efficacy, all is not lost, said the researchers. Prior research has shown that you can boost confidence to achieve your goals by remembering your previous successes, observing others accomplishing something you find daunting, and enlisting support from your friends and family. "Every step toward your goal will further increase your confidence," McAuley said.
In the study, 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 own progress, managed their time, and engaged in other "self-regulatory" behaviors, such as working in the yard rather than watching TV.
Participants were then randomly assigned to either a walking program or a stretching, toning, and balance program that met three times a week for a year. Their self-efficacy was assessed after three weeks in the program.
Those who stuck to their program were the ones who were better able to multitask and better control their undesirable behaviors, the researchers found.