German Journal of Exercise and Sport Research

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 315–323 | Cite as

The role of learned optimism, proactive coping and goal adjustment in re-establishing regular exercise after a lapse

Results from a prospective study with objective data in a health-training centre
  • Daniela Kahlert
  • Ralf Brand


Physical exercise has to be performed regularly in order to achieve long-term health benefits. However, many people do not maintain it over the long run because negative events, such as muscle ache or negative affect after having exercised, may occur. The goal of this study was to analyse whether the way people explain these events (explanatory style according to the Theory of Learned Optimism) contributes to predicting exercise attendance in a health-training centre. Training attendance of 88 exercisers (mean age 51.7 years, standard deviation [SD] = 13.4 years) was monitored for a 27-week period through the centre’s attendance login database. From these data ‘training lapses’ (no centre visits for two or more consecutive weeks) and ‘recoveries’ (re-establishing a regular training routine after having experienced a lapse) were calculated. Optimistic vs. pessimistic ‘explanatory style’ and the theoretically derived moderators high vs. low ‘goal adjustment’ and ‘proactive coping’ were measured in advance. Results revealed no differences between optimistic and pessimistic exercisers regarding their number of training lapses. Optimistic exercisers with high goal adjustment and high proactive coping showed superior recovery from training lapses, however. Unexpectedly, pessimists with low goal adjustment and low proactive coping showed more recoveries as well. Further applications of the theory of learned optimism in the domain of exercise are needed to explain these mixed results.


Explanatory style Exercise Behaviour maintenance Lapses Recoveries 

Bedeutung von gelerntem Optimismus, proaktivem Coping und Zielanpassung für die Wiederaufnahme regelmäßiger sportlicher Aktivität nach Trainingsfehlzeiten

Ergebnisse einer prospektiven Studie mit objektiven Daten in einem Gesundheitszentrum


Um langfristig positive Wirkungen für die Gesundheit zu erreichen, sollte Sport regelmäßig betrieben werden. Allerdings schaffen es viele Menschen nicht, dies zu tun, weil mit Sporttreiben auch negative Empfindungen, z. B. Muskelkater oder schlechte Stimmung, verbunden sein können. In der vorliegenden Studie wurde untersucht, ob die Art, wie sich Personen solche negativen Begleiterscheinungen erklären (Attributionsstil; gemäß der Theorie des gelernten Optimismus), das Trainingsverhalten in einem Gesundheitszentrum vorhersagen kann. Hierfür wurden die im Login-System des Gesundheitszentrums festgehaltene Trainingshäufigkeit und -regelmäßigkeit von 88 Mitgliedern des Gesundheitszentrums (Durchschnittsalter 51,7 ± 13,4 Jahre) über einen 27 Wochen andauernden Untersuchungszeitraum hinweg analysiert. Daraus wurden die Beobachtungsvariablen Trainingsfehlzeit (zwei oder mehr Wochen ohne Training) und Wiedereinstieg (regelmäßige Besuche nach einer Trainingsfehlzeit) abgeleitet. Der Attributionsstil (optimistisch vs. pessimistisch) und die beiden theoretisch abgeleiteten Moderatorvariablen Zielanpassung und proaktives Coping wurden zu Untersuchungsbeginn gemessen. Mit Blick auf die Trainingsfehlzeiten konnten zwischen optimistischen und pessimistischen Sporttreibenden keine Unterschiede festgestellt werden. Allerdings stiegen Personen mit optimistischem Attributionsstil und hohen Werten in proaktivem Coping und Zielanpassungsfähigkeit nach Trainingsfehlzeit eher wieder in ein regelmäßiges Training ein. Überraschend war, dass auch Personen mit einem pessimistischen Attributionsstil, niedriger Zielanpassungsfähigkeit und wenig proaktivem Coping eher wieder ins Training einstiegen. Zur besseren Einordnung der gemischten Befundlage sind weitere Untersuchungen, die die Theorie des gelernten Optimismus auf den Bereich des Gesundheitssports anwenden, notwendig.


Attributionsstil Körperlich-sportliche Aktivität Aufrechterhaltung Trainingsfehlzeit Wiederaufnahme sportlicher Aktivität 



We would like to thank all participants who took part in this study as well as the staff of the health-centre for supporting our study.

Compliance with ethical guidelines

Conflict of interest

D. Kahlert and R. Brand declare that they have no competing interests.

This study followed the Helsinki Declaration as well as accepted ethical and scientific standards that protect the rights of participants.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Health ScienceUniversity of Education Schwäbisch GmündSchwäbisch GmündGermany
  2. 2.Department of Sport and Exercise PsychologyUniversity of PotsdamPotsdamGermany

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