The power of the mind: If you think you can succeed, your body will change accordingly

Social psychology states that there is a link between high self-efficacy and positive outcomes — and that the belief that you can achieve a difficult task defines your level of self-efficacy. According to research on the connection between self-efficacy and quality of life perceptions of health, this belief in your ability to succeed may even affect how you perceive your body’s abilities. The study was led by Anna Banik, who worked with fellow researchers from the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities.

Can self-efficacy boost your physical fitness?

Think back to the last time you had to get ready for a physically demanding task, like a 5K race to raise money for a local charity. When you’re getting ready for a challenge like this, you often need to prepare both your mind and body before the day of the race.

Data from the research shows that just like nutrition and physical preparation, your psychological health can help ensure that you accomplish tasks like this. Regardless if your goal is to finish first in the race or to just reach the finish line, boosting exercise-related self-efficacy is a crucial part of the process.

Self-efficacy refers to the belief that you have in your own abilities, specifically the ability to meet challenges and accomplish certain tasks successfully. While general self-efficacy refers to the overall belief in your ability to succeed, there are various specific forms of self-efficacy, such as those relating to academics or sports.

For the study, the research team relied on a meta-analysis to examine all the available evidence in the literature about the role of both general and exercise-specific self-efficacy in predicting health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in people who had cardiovascular disease (CVD). HRQOL is defined as “your perspective on your health in the broadest sense of physical, mental, and social functioning.” The research team explained that “improving HRQOL among people with CVD is one of the critical goals for any treatment, rehabilitation, and intervention efforts.”

When facing a physical challenge, having heart disease may significantly affect your quality of life. But Banik commented that one way to resolve this is by modifying your sense of self-efficacy, which is a crucial yet modifiable personal resource that allows you to manage your own functioning. Believing that you can control health-related outcomes should help improve your perspective about your overall health and your sense of self. (Related: Mind-body connection: Simple attitude proven to lower risk of heart failure by 73%.)

Various studies have shown that using self-efficacy, people with CVD can manage their disease to some degree. It can even help them reduce the depression that is usually linked to chronic illness.

Since exercise is a part of treatment for individuals with CVD, the research team factored in exercise-specific measures of self-efficacy when they analyzed data concerning the subject. The measures included the Exercise Self-Efficacy Scale that asks individuals to rate their ability to exercise at different intensity levels for about 40 minutes without quitting for at least eight weeks. Other self-efficacy measures gauged the participants’ beliefs about their ability to cope with CVD and certain treatment regimens based on each person’s specific diagnosis.

The researchers posited that instead of global self-efficacy, specific self-efficacy can be used to accurately determine HRQOL via the suggestion of previous studies.

To determine overall or global self-efficacy, the research team referenced a scale from Schwarzer & Jerusalem (1995). The scale included questions that can help individuals determine if they can successfully accomplish a challenge.

HRQOL and exercise-specific self-efficacy

Based on their review of the literature about the role of general and exercise-specific self-efficacy, the latter was the strongest predictor of HRQOL. This backs the idea that the best way to feel better about your fitness and physical abilities is to fully understand your current task. The researchers said that it would be wise to consider the findings as proof that improving your mindset about your health in a global sense can also increase your chance of achieving any exercise goals you have in mind.

When facing any physical challenges, mental preparation should include identifying and figuring out how to maximize self-efficacy. Using these building blocks, you can formalize a plan that will help you reach your goals. It also helps to have an overall sense of optimism and control, along with positivity about your life in general. When it comes to facing life’s challenges, training both your mind and body is crucial to your success.

You can read more articles about the link between self-efficacy and your mental and physical health at

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