Aim. To explore the conceptual underpinnings of self-efficacy to address the barriers to participating in physical activity and propose a model of intervention. Background. The benefits of physical activity in reducing cardiovascular risk have led to evidence-based recommendations for patients with heart disease, including those with chronic heart failure. However, adherence to best practice recommendations is often suboptimal, particularly in those individuals who experience high symptom burden and feel less confident to undertake physical activity. Self-efficacy is the degree of confidence an individual has in his/her ability to perform behaviour under several specific circumstances. Four factors influence an individual's level of self-efficacy: (1) past performance, (2) vicarious experience, (3) verbal persuasion and (4) physiological arousal. Design. Discursive. Methods. Using the method of a discursive paper, this article seeks to explore the conceptual underpinnings of self-efficacy to address the barriers to participating in physical activity and proposes a model of intervention, the Home-Heart-Walk, to promote physical activity and monitor functional status. Conclusions. Implementing effective interventions to promote physical activities require appreciation of factors impacting on behaviour change. Addressing concepts relating to self-efficacy in physical activity interventions may promote participation and adherence in the longer term. Relevance to clinical practice. The increasing burden of chronic disease and the emphasis on self-management strategies underscore the importance of promoting adherence to recommendations, such as physical activity. © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.