The majority of the adult population in the U.S.is either sedentary or not sufficiently active enough to achieve the health benefits usually derived from consistent exercise (Dishman & Buckworth, 2001). Of those who adopt an exercise program, approximately 50% fail to maintain this behavior and relapse to inactivity within the first six months (Marcus et al., 2000). According to the Transtheoretical model of change, individuals who exercise on a regular basis for over 6 months are defined as being in the “maintenance stage” (Buckworth & Dishman, 2001). Achieving this stage will yield a healthier lifestyle, while decreasing the risk of relapse.
Health behavior theories such as the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA; Fishbein & Ajzen, 1980), the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB; Ajzen, 1991), and the Protection Motivation Theory (PMT; Maddux, 1993; Maddux & Rogers, 1983) emphasize the role of behavioral intentions to be the most immediate and important predictor of behavior. Intentions are explicit decisions to act in a certain way, and they concentrate on a person’s motivation towards a goal in terms of direction and intensity (Sheeran, 2002). For example, restructure your environment by taking a different route home in order to avoid driving past your favorite fast food restaurant.
“Outcome Expectancies” and “Maintenance Self-Efficacy” are the two important intentional factors in the achievement and adherence of the maintenance stage.
Outcome expectancies are beliefs about the positive and negative outcomes of alternative behaviors. An inactive person might consider physical activity to be beneficial for his or her health (‘‘if I exercise, I will control my weight’’), but at the same time it is very resource-demanding and exhausting (‘‘if I exercise I will have less time for my work’’). If the positive outcome expectancies (pros) outweigh the negative ones (cons), the likelihood of developing an intention to change the behavior increases (Luszczynska & Schwarzer, 2003).
Maintenance self-efficacy refers to the perceived capability to maintain a newly adopted behavior, develop routines, and cope with unexpected barriers during the maintenance phase (Luszczynska & Schwarzer, 2003). A new health behavior might turn out to be much more difficult to adhere to than expected, but a high self-efficacious person responds confidently to such challenges with better strategies, more effort, and prolonged persistence to overcome such hurdles.
“Let’s Move” TIP OF THE WEEK
It is vital to set realistic goals when developing an exercise program. It is just as important to maintain realistic expectations when evaluating one’s own progress. Seek out information from professionals in order to make these judgments. The information will prove to be invaluable in helping you get to the maintenance stage and eventually a healthy lifestyle.
Lastly, if you are not currently exercising on a regular basis try writing a “pros” and “cons” list for beginning an exercise program. If you do your research regarding the benefits of exercise, your pro list will clearly outweigh your cons.