Not keen on working out? It might be your personality

We know that regular exercise is key to good health and a healthy weight. For some, however, a workout is an essential part of their day, while others let their expensive gym membership gather dust.

Now, researchers have identified a personality trait that makes some people stick to their exercise goals better than others – a term called “planfulness”.

Simply put, if you often plan your days, make goals and stick to them, you may be more likely to engage in physical activity, compared to those who tend not to plan their days ahead.

These latest research findings were published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. 

The link between personality and exercise

According to lead researcher, Rita M. Ludwig from the University of Oregon, some people seem to be able to meet their goals more consistently than others, but it remained unclear whether certain personality traits affect this ability.

Ludwig and the other researchers state that levels of orderliness and dependability have long been tied to healthier behaviours. Now they could narrow in on one specific trait, planfulness, which allows an individual to make short sacrifices to achieve a long-term goal.

"There indeed appears to be a certain way of thinking about goals that correlates with long-term progress," Ludwig says. "What's new in this study is that we used an objective measure of goal progress that could be recorded as participants naturally went about their lives: their check-ins at a local gym."

The study entailed the examination of the gym attendance of 282 participants over a period of 20 weeks. The participants, many of them students, had to provide a written description of their exercise plans and completed their measures of self-control and other characteristics on a so-called Planfulness Scale.

Those who rated the ability to plan high on the scale, went to the gym more frequently than those who scored lower.

"This work is broadly informative for those who are curious about how people pursue health goals, including their own patterns of thought around goals. Clinicians might find it helpful in understanding how their patients tend to think about goals and whether person-to-person differences in such thinking are related to outcomes,” stated Ludwig.

Does this mean you are doomed?

Not a great planner and love living life on the edge? Does this mean that you are unable to stick to an exercise regime? Don’t despair. Here is how to motivate yourself to work out more frequently:

  • Start small and realistically. Schedule something easy, such as a 20-minute walk or a quick 10-minute jump rope session.
  • Make a date – if you make plans to exercise with a friend, you are more likely to turn up and not let your friend down.
  • Incorporate your workout into your work day – go for a quick walk during your lunchtime, or take the stairs up to your canteen.
  • Find a workout you enjoy. If walking or running bores you to death, try an at-home workout, or find a plan that you can take to the gym with you.
  • Put your workout on your to-do list – if you keep a to-do list of tasks you need to complete for work, schedule your workout on there as well, even if it’s only 20 minutes of your day.
  • Be consistent. Keep up with this new fitness regime, no matter how small, for at least three weeks to make the habit stick.

Image credit: iStock

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