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

Edward Mcauley, Amanda Szabo, Neha Gothe, Erin A. Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


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-efficacyã¢â‚¬â„¢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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)361-369
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Lifestyle Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • aging
  • function
  • limitations
  • physical activity
  • self-efficacy
  • social cognitive theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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