Exercise self-efficacy and fitness are not identical. Whereas fitness contributes to exercise enjoyment primarily through bodily sensations, exercise self-efficacy contributes to exercise enjoyment more through objective performance feedback. This distinction is important, because it suggests that runners can consciously set up their training to provide the best and most consistent evidence of their improvement and thereby maximize their enjoyment of running, which will in turn promote further improvement.
The potential for performance feedback to influence self-efficacy, and thus enjoyment, for better or worse was highlighted in an interesting study at the University of Illinois. A pool of 46 college women was separated into two groups, each of which completed a certain exercise task and received feedback on performance throughout it.
Without the participantsknowledge, however, the performance feedback was manipulated so that members of one group seemed to fail miserably while members of the second group seemed to succeed gloriously. Questionnaires completed afterward revealed that members of the second group enjoyed the exercise task much more and rated their self-efficacy much higher than did members of the first group, even though the actual performance of both groups was the same.
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