Self-motivation versus social learning theory: Predicting adherence to an aerobic fitness program

Date of Completion

January 1990


Health Sciences, Recreation|Psychology, Clinical




Adherence to a fourteen week aerobic fitness program was studied in a sample of 95 healthy adult volunteers. Self-motivation, mood states, expectations of benefit, and self-efficacy for program attendance were investigated as potential predictors of adherence. Participants were assessed at three points during the program and ratings by knowledgeable observers were obtained to provide convergent validation of instruments. Expectations of positive outcome and self-efficacy expectations were significant predictors of program attendance while self-motivation was not. In addition, previous program attendance, satisfaction, and positive outcome attainment were associated with greater adherence. These outcomes were more supportive of a social learning theory orientation than the self-motivation framework. A recursive model was employed to explain the phenomenon of dropping out from exercise programs. This model yielded specific suggestions for improving adherence to structured exercise programs (e.g., designing classes for specific populations, early assessment of satisfaction and goal attainment, and educating participants about the circular nature of self-improvement efforts). ^