It is well known that most people are aware of the link between exercise and better health. So, why are over half of the population not sufficiently active and suffering from preventable health problems such as overweight and obesity?
The answer can be explained by many variables including individual and environmental factors to name a few. However, have you ever considered the importance of a persons self confidence in firstly, participating in exercise, and secondly, sustaining it over a period of time to reap the benefits?
Research shows that this factor is crucial to successful physical activity behaviour change. Self-confidence or self-efficacy, as it is referred to in the literature, is a persons belief in their ability to successfully perform a certain behaviour or task to bring about a desired outcome. Importantly, a persons confidence level in regard to performing exercise behaviours has been shown to have a significant impact on a persons success in changing exercise habits. A persons confidence level towards successfully performing exercise behaviours can easily be measured by having the person rate their confidence on a 10 point scale, with 1 being the lowest (not confident) and 10 being the highest (very confident).
For primary health care professionals, it is worthwhile exploring why a persons confidence level may be low as this may help the professional to empower their patient or client to increase their confidence level. For example, a patient may lack the knowledge about what type of exercise could improve their health condition. This may contribute to the individual not feeling confident about exercise participation as they may have reservations about exercise exacerbating their condition or not being able to participate properly due to their condition.
Some practical ways that primary healthcare professionals can help their patients or clients to improve their confidence regarding exercise may include:
- Offering information, training, guidance or referring to an Accredited Exercise Physiologist
- Explaining to the person that other people, similar to them, have achieved successful results through exercise e.g. patients with chronic conditions. An explanation of the small steps that the person took may also help.
- Offering verbal support to the patient or client
- Assisting the patient or client to improve their physical or emotional state before attempting exercise. For example, helping them overcome any anxiety they may have about exercise participation.
Next time you intend to participate in a new health behaviour, such as exercise, or are talking with a patient or client about exercise, consider the power of self-confidence in assisting them to achieve successful outcomes.
For more information and tools about encouraging exercise participation visit the Exercise Is Medicine Australia Website.
Bandura, A., (2004). Health Promotion by Social Cognitive means. Health education and behaviour, 31(2), 143-164