The Importance of Self-efficacy

Self-efficacy considers an individual’s belief in their capacity to follow through with behaviours that are required to produce specific performance achievements1. As FitPros we are generally trying to help clients achieve some measure of behaviour change. This may be a dietary change, an exercise/activity change or any combination of these two or others. Building a client’s level of self-efficacy is key to this and can be achieved through a number of routes, as follows.

Support is crucial, whether this is from the fitpro or the client’s peer group. You should always check that your client has good peer group support and has identified who this group will consist of. The next aspect is education, without this self-efficacy is unlikely to increase. The information provided should be salient to the client and delivered in language that they can comprehend and act on. Most importantly it should only be offered to clients with their permission. This is a key principal of motivational interviewing (MI). Giving clients information because you think it is important will only be effective if they are ready to receive it. Goal setting is also an important part of the process. Setting short-term achievable goals helps clients feel good about themselves as they tick off these small milestones. With my clients I work with them setting weekly goals. Notice I say “work with them” it is important that they own the goals and are heavily involved in their formulation. You should resist the temptation to just set random targets. This is unlikely to be effective as the client will have no investment in them.

Each of these processes is important for growing the client’s self-efficacy but why is this important to the fitpro? Research into Self-efficacy has been identified as an important determinant of health behaviour, future health behaviour and health behaviour change2. My research has highlighted that you can monitor and measure self-efficacy and use it to predict a client’s chances of succeeding in a programme. What is more it can be used to monitor your clients progress, highlighting whether your programme is working for the client. If it isn’t working, then it allows you to make changes before the client relapses and perhaps leaves your programme.

Applying scientific understanding of behaviour change techniques will make you a far better trainer/coach and is also more likely to improve the final outcomes for your clients.



  1. Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84(2), 191-215.
  2. Holloway, Aisha & Watson, Hazel. (2002). Role of self-efficacy and behavior change. International Journal of Nursing Practice. 8. 106 – 115. 10.1046/j.1440-172x.2002.00352.x.