Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 65–88 | Cite as

The role of efficacy cognitions in the prediction of exercise behavior in middle-aged adults

  • Edward McAuley


The present study adopted a social cognitive framework to examine the role played by perceptions of personal efficacy in adherence to exercise behavior in sedentary middle-aged adults. Subjects were followed for 5 months in order to study the process of exercise as it moved through the adoption to maintenance stage of the behavior. Participation rates paralleled those reported elsewhere in the literature. Path analytic techniques examined the role over time of efficacy, perceptual, and behavioral indicators of frequency and intensity of exercise. Self-efficacy cognitions were shown to predict adoption of exercise behavior but previous behavior proved to be the strongest predictor of subsequent exercise participation. Results are discussed in terms of examining process versus static design models in exercise and physical activity research. Implications for future research and health promotion are suggested.

Key words

efficacy cognitions exercise adherence middle-aged adults 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. American College of Sports Medicine (1978). The recommended quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining fitness in healthy adults.Med. Sci. Sport Exercise 10(3); vii-ix.Google Scholar
  2. Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change.Psychol. Rev. 84: 191–215.Google Scholar
  3. Bandura, A. (1986).Social Foundations of Thought and Action, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.Google Scholar
  4. Bandura, A. (1989). Human agency in social cognitive theory.Am. Psychol. 44: 1175–1184.Google Scholar
  5. Blair, S. N., Mulder, R. T., and Kohl, H. W. (1987). Reaction to “Secular trends in adult physical activity: Exercise boom or bust?”Res. Q. Exercise Sport 58: 106–110.Google Scholar
  6. Blumenthal, J. A., Emery, C. F., Madden, D. J., George, L. K., Coleman, E., Riddle, M. W., Mikee, D. C., Reasoner, J., and Williams, R. S. (1989). Cardiovascular and behavioral effect of aerobic exercise training in healthy, older men and women.J. Gerontol. 44: M147–157.Google Scholar
  7. Booth-Kewley, S., and Friedman, H. S. (1987). Psychological predictors of heart disease: A quantitative review.Psychol. Bull. 101: 343–362.Google Scholar
  8. Borg, G. (1985).An Introduction to Borg's RPE-Scale, Mouvement, Ithaca, NY.Google Scholar
  9. Cunningham, D. A., Rechnitzer, P. A., Howard, J. H., and Donner, A. P. (1987). Exercise training of men at retirement: A clinical trial.J. Gerontol. 42: 17–23.Google Scholar
  10. Dishman, R. K. (1982). Compliance/adherence in health-related exercise.Health Psychol. 1: 237–267.Google Scholar
  11. Dishman, R. K. (1985). Medical psychology in exercise and sport.Med. Clin. N. Am. 69(1): 123–143.Google Scholar
  12. Dishman, R. K. (1988).Exercise Adherence: Its Impact on Public Health, Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL.Google Scholar
  13. Dishman, R. K., Ickes, W. J., and Morgan, W. P. (1980). Self-motivation and adherence to habitual physical activity.J. Appl. Soc. Psychol. 10: 115–137.Google Scholar
  14. Dishman, R. K., Sallis, J. F., and Orenstein, D. R. (1985). The determinants of physical activity and exercise.Public Health Rep. 100: 158–171.Google Scholar
  15. Dunbar, J. (1987). Predictors of compliance. NHLBI Workshop: Adoption and maintenance of behaviors for optimal health. Bethesda, MD, April 29–May 1.Google Scholar
  16. Duncan, T. E. (1989).The Influence of Social Support and Efficacy Cognitions in the Exercise Behavior of Sedentary Adults: An Interactional Model, Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Oregon, Eugene.Google Scholar
  17. Emery, C. F., and Blumenthal, J. A. (1990). Perceived change among participants in an exercise program for middle-aged adults.Gerontologist 30: 516–521.Google Scholar
  18. Emery, C. F., and Gatz, M. (1990). Psychological and cognitive effects of an exercise program for community-residing older adults.Gerontologist 30: 184–188.Google Scholar
  19. Epstein, L., and Cluss, P. A. (1982). A behavioral medicine perspective on adherence to long-term medical regimens.J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 50: 950–971.Google Scholar
  20. Ewart, C. K., Stewart, K. J., Gillian, R. E., and Keleman, M. H. (1986a). Self-efficacy mediates strength gains during circuit weight training in men with coronary artery disease.Med. Sci. Sports Exercise 18: 531–540.Google Scholar
  21. Ewart, C. K., Stewart, K. J., Gillian, R. E., Keleman, M. H., Valenti, S. A., Manley, J. D., and Kaleman, M. D. (1986b). Usefulness of self-efficacy in predicting overexertion during programmed exercise in coronary artery disease.Am. J. Cardiol. 57: 557–561.Google Scholar
  22. Feltz, D. L. (1982). Path analysis of the causal elements in Bandura's theory of self-efficacy and an anxiety based model of avoidance behavior.J. Personal. Soc. Psychol. 42: 764–781.Google Scholar
  23. Feltz, D. L., and Mugno, D. A. (1983). A replication of the path analysis of the causal elements in Bandura's theory of self-efficacy and the influence of autonomic perception.J. Sport Psychol. 5: 263–277.Google Scholar
  24. Fontana, A. F., Kerns, R. D., Rosenberg, R. L., Marcus, J. L., and Colonese, K. L. (1986). Exercise training for cardiac patients: Adherence, fitness, and benefits.J. Cardiopul. Rehab. 6: 4–15.Google Scholar
  25. Jackson, A. S., and Pollock, M. L. (1978). Generalized equations for predicting body density.Med. Sci. Sport Exercise 12: 175–182.Google Scholar
  26. Kaplan, R. M., Atkins, C. J., and Reinsch, S. (1984). Specific efficacy expectations mediate exercise compliance in patients with COPD.Health Psychol. 3: 223–242.Google Scholar
  27. Kaplan, R. M., and Simon, H. J. (1990). Compliance in medical care: Reconsideration of self-predictions.Ann. Behav. Med. 12: 66–71.Google Scholar
  28. Maresh, C. M., and Noble, B. J. (1984). Utilization of perceived exertion ratings during exercise testing and training. In Hall, L. K., Meyer, G. C., and Hellerstein, H. K. (eds.),Cardiac Rehabilitation: Exercise Testing and Prescription, Life Enhancement, Champaign, IL.Google Scholar
  29. Martin, J. E., and Dubbert, P. C. (1985). Adherence to exercise.Exercise Sport Sci. Rev. 13: 137–167.Google Scholar
  30. McArdle, W. D., Katch, F. I., and Katch, V. L. (1986).Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance, 2nd ed., Lea & Febiger, Philadelphia, PA.Google Scholar
  31. McAuley, E. (1990). Self-efficacy determinants of exercise behavior in middle-aged adults. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity, Houston, TX, May.Google Scholar
  32. McAuley, E. (1991). Understanding exercise behavior: A self-efficacy perspective. In Roberts, G. C. (ed.),Understanding Motivation in Sport and Exercise, Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL (in press).Google Scholar
  33. McAuley, E., Courneya, K. S., and Lettunich, J. (1991). Effects of acute and long-term exercise on self-efficacy responses in sedentary, middle-aged males and females.Gerontologist, 31: 534–542.Google Scholar
  34. McAuley, E., and Gill, D. L. (1983). Reliability and validity of the physical self-efficacy scale in a competitive sport setting.J. Sport Psychol. 5: 440–418.Google Scholar
  35. McAuley, E., and Jacobson, L. (1991). Self-efficacy and exercise participation in sedentary adult females.Am. J. Health Promot. 5: 185–191.Google Scholar
  36. McAuley, E., Poag, K., Gleason, A., and Wraith, S. (1990). Attrition from exercise programs: Attributional and affective perspectives.J. Soc. Behav. Personal. 5: 591–602.Google Scholar
  37. Meichenbaum, D., and Turk, D. C. (1987).Facilitating Treatment Adherence. A Practitioner's Handbook, Plenum, New York.Google Scholar
  38. Noble, B. J. (1982). Clinical application of perceived exertion.Med. Sci. Sports Exercise 14: 406.Google Scholar
  39. Oldridge, N. B. (1982). Compliance and exercise in primary and secondary prevention of coronary heart disease: A review.Prev. Med. 11: 56–70.Google Scholar
  40. O'Leary, A. (1985). Self-efficacy and health.Behav. Res. Ther. 23: 437–451.Google Scholar
  41. Paffenbarger, R. S., and Hyde, R. T. (1988). Exercise adherence, coronary heart disease, and longevity. In Dishman, R. K. (ed.),Exercise Adherence, Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL.Google Scholar
  42. Pedhazur, E. (1982).Multiple Regression in Behavioral Research, Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, New York.Google Scholar
  43. Perkins, K. A., and Epstein, L. H. (1988). Methodology in exercise adherence research. In Dishman, R. K. (ed.),Exercise Adherence, Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL.Google Scholar
  44. Pocari, M. S., McMarron, R., Kline, G., Freedson, P., Ward, A., Ross, J., and Rippe, J. (1987). Is fast walking an adequate training stimulus for 30–69 year old men and women?Physician Sports Med. 15: 119–129.Google Scholar
  45. Pollock, M. L., Wilmore, J. H., and Fox, S. M. (1984).Exercise in Health and Disease, W. B. Sanders, Philadelphia.Google Scholar
  46. Ramlow, J., Kriska, A., and Laporte, R. (1987). Physical activity in the population: The epidemiologic spectrum.Res. Q. Exercise Sport 58(2): 111–113.Google Scholar
  47. Ryckman, R. M., Robbins, M. A., Thornton, B., and Contrell, P. (1982). Development and validation of a physical self-efficacy scale.J. Personal. Soc. Psychol. 42: 891–900.Google Scholar
  48. Rosenthal, R., and Rubin, D. B. (1982). A simple, general purpose display of magnitude of experimental effect.J. Educ. Psychol. 74: 166–169.Google Scholar
  49. Rosnow, L. R., and Rosenthal, R. (1989). Statistical procedures and the justification of knowledge in psychological science.Am. Psychol. 44: 1276–1284.Google Scholar
  50. Sallis, J. F., and Hovell, M. F. (1990). Determinants of exercise behavior.Exercise Sport Sci. Rev. 18: 307–330.Google Scholar
  51. Sallis J. F., Haskell, W. L., Fortnam, S. P., Vranizan, M. S., Taylor, C. B., and Solomon, D. S. (1986). Predictors of adoption and maintenance of physical activity in a community sample.Prev. Med. 15: 331–341.Google Scholar
  52. Siconolfi, S. F., Cullinane, E. M., Carleton, R. A., and Thompson, P. D. (1982). AssessingVO2 max in epidemiologic studies: Modification of the Astrand-Ryhming test.Med. Sci. Sports Exercise 14(5): 335–338.Google Scholar
  53. Siscovik, D. S., Laporte, R. E., and Newman, J. M. (1985). The disease-specific benefits and risks of physical activity and exercise.Public Health Rep. 100: 189–195.Google Scholar
  54. Sonstroem, R. J. (1988). Psychological models. In Dishman, R. K. (ed.),Exercise Adherence, Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL.Google Scholar
  55. Stephens, T., Jacob, D. R., Jr., and White, C. C. (1985). A descriptive epidemiology of leisure time physical activity.Public Health Rep. 100: 147–158.Google Scholar
  56. Tomporowski, P. D., and Ellis, N. R. (1986). Effects of exercise on cognitive processes: A review.Psychol. Bull. 99: 338–346.Google Scholar
  57. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1979).Surgeon General's Report: Promoting Health-Preventing Disease, 1990 Objectives for the Nation, Public Health Services, National Institutes of Health, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  58. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1980).Promoting Health and Preventing Disease, Public Health Services, National Institutes of Health, Washington, DC.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edward McAuley
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of KinesiologyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbana

Personalised recommendations