Self-efficacy: Implications for Physical Activity, Function, and Functional Limitations in Older Adults

Am J Lifestyle Med. 2011 Jul;5(4):10.1177/1559827610392704. doi: 10.1177/1559827610392704.


Attenuating the physical decline and increases in disability associated with the aging process is an important public health priority. Evidence suggests that regular physical activity participation improves functional performance, such as walking, standing balance, flexibility, and getting up out of a chair, and also plays an important role in the disablement process by providing a protective effect against functional limitations. Whether these effects are direct or indirect has yet to be reliably established. In this review, the authors take the perspective that such relationships are indirect and operate through self-efficacy expectations. They first provide an introduction to social cognitive theory followed by an overview of self-efficacy's reciprocal relationship with physical activity. They then consider the literature that documents the effects of physical activity on functional performance and functional limitations in older adults and the extent to which self-efficacy might mediate these relationships. Furthermore, they also present evidence that suggests that self-efficacy plays a pivotal role in a model in which the protective effects conferred by physical activity on functional limitations operate through functional performance. The article concludes with a brief section making recommendations for the development of strategies within physical activity and rehabilitative programs for maximizing the major sources of efficacy information.

Keywords: aging; function; limitations; physical activity; self-efficacy; social cognitive theory.