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Factors Influencing Diet and Exercise Adherence pt 1 (Socio-economic & Cognitive Factors)

There are 4 broad categories that affect diet and exercise adherence, namely, Socio-Demographic, Cognitive, Personal Health, and Interpersonal Factors. As you get a handle on each of the different factors, your adherence to exercise and diet will improve. There is a lot of info, so this will be a 2 part post. The first part covers the socio-demographic and cognitive factors, the second part will cover the interpersonal and personal health factors.

Socio-Economic Factors:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Socio-Economic status
  • Education Level 

Studies show that by improving your socio-economic status and education level, you’re more likely to adhere to an exercise and diet plan.  Improving your socio-economic status also makes it easier to find and pay for a high-quality trainer/coach.

Of course, everything depends on your attitude. Your beliefs, perceptions and knowledge directly impact your ability to stick to diet and exercise.

Cognitive Factors

  • Beliefs
  • Perceptions
  • Knowledge
  • Self-efficacy and expectations


I think we all understand and believe that we are all getting older, and if we don’t look after our minds and bodies, they’ll deteriorate fast. That’s the truth, and it’s important to accept that. It’s also true that we can have a big impact on that deterioration by taking care of our health by exercising regularly, by choosing healthier food options, and by restricting or eliminating smoking, drugs and alcohol. 


Be aware of and manage your perceptions. For example, stiffness after exercise is not a bad thing, it’s a sign that your body is improving and adapting. Martial arts are not just for kids, adults could participate in them, and gain tremendous benefit. You don’t need to get fit to start training, you need to start training to get fit. Everyone starts at the beginning. And exercise won’t make you tired (unless you’re over-training), exercise will energise you.


Being aware of all of the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle improves adherence. Different things land with different people. You may be more likely to stick to exercise if you knew that increasing muscle mass speeds your metabolism, but a kg of muscle is less than half the size of a kg of fat. So you can add muscle and still become much leaner. Or you may be motivated with the knowledge that exercise improves cognitive function. Or maybe the studies that show exercise typically yields an ROI of 1,6:1. The more you know, the more likely you are to make healthy decisions. 

Conversely, lack of knowledge has been linked to non-adherence to healthy lifestyle choices. 

Self-efficacy & Expectations

Self-efficacy (your belief in your own capability) and expectations are an important motivating factor too. If you don’t believe you can make the changes you want, or if you believe the amount of effort that’ll be required to make the changes isn’t worth it, you’ ll demotivate yourself. If you believe you can do it, and that it’ll be worth it in the end, you’ll keep firing.

Key Takeaways to improve adherence to exercise and diet: 

  • Improve your education and socio-economic status
  • Nurture your beliefs about the dangers of not living a healthy lifestyle, and the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle.
  • Manage your perceptions of exercise and diet, and the costs, effects and benefits it’ll have.
  • Stay aware of anything you come across detailing the benefits of exercise, diet and living a healthy lifestyle.
  • Believe in yourself, that you can make the changes you want, and that it’ll be worth it when you do!
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