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Personality influences our exercise results

Personality influences our exercise results

The results of physical training may have less to do with your athletic ability and more to do with who you are as a person. In fact, studies have found that an individual's personality is a strong predictor of their physical activity behaviors.

One aspect of personality that particularly influences how people exercise is motivation.

"If our intention is to do something in the long term, we need intrinsic motivation", Hayley Perlus, PhD, sport and performance psychologist, told Healthline. "We need a sense of autonomy. We need to do this for ourselves."

In addition to whether or not someone is self-motivated, Brenley Shapiro, MSW, RSW, RP, NHL mental performance coach for the Arizona Coyotes, mentions "Instinctual competitive drive, introversion/extroversion levels and self-management potential" as playing key roles in the type of activities people are attracted to and how successful they will be.

In other words, your personality type can influence not only the type of exercise you enjoy, but also how likely you are to be motivated to continue.

Whether you're thinking of starting a new fitness routine or changing your current one, knowing your personality type can help you determine which workout is best for you.

Many scientists and researchers prefer to use the Big Five Personality Scale, which assesses people based on five major traits, all of which exist along a continuum.

These features are:

neuroticism (one's inability to cope with stress)

A number of websites offer versions of the Big Five personality test, a popular option being the Big Five inventory. This is a short test that uses your answers to 50 multiple-choice questions to determine where you fall on the spectrum for each trait.

You can take the test here.

Knowing where you fall on the spectrum of each personality trait can help you determine which of the following types of exercises best suit you or which you want to avoid.

Hiking is a great form of exercise for those who love adventure and exploration.
Openness correlates with the search for adventure and the desire to try new things.

Hiking is a great way to burn calories and a number of studies have also highlighted the mental health benefits.

A 2019 study found that people who spent at least two hours a week hiking, either in nature or in an urban setting, reported an increase in their mental and physical health.

More recent research has also found that even short 5-minute walks every 30 minutes during an 8-hour workday can help lower blood sugar and blood pressure.

For people with a high level of conscientiousness: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Perlus said people who score high in conscientiousness are usually drawn to structure and order. They are usually detail-oriented and well-prepared.

If you're a person with this personality trait, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) may be for you. HIIT workouts consist of short periods of intense activity followed by rest periods of low intensity.

Although HIIT workouts can vary greatly, classes are often programmed with specific goals in mind and provide a clear plan for people to follow.

A typical HIIT workout will last 10-30 minutes. However, despite the short duration, studies have found that HIIT workouts can burn 25-30% more calories than other forms of exercise.


People who score at the lower end of the extraversion scale usually reactivate spending time alone and find social interactions more strenuous than those who score closer to the upper end of this personality trait.

Yoga is a great workout for more introverted personality types, as the entire practice is centered on turning attention inward and offers numerous physical, mental and spiritual health benefits.

While most people may typically think of yoga as a way to improve strength and flexibility, yoga includes a wide range of practices. Some of these might not focus on the physical, but instead aim to improve your mind and spirit through activities such as meditation or breathing. Numerous studies have found that yoga can also help reduce anxiety, improve sleep and strengthen the immune system.

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For people with a low level of Agility: CrossFit
Agreeableness is the willingness to go with the flow and let others lead. At the opposite end of this scale is competitiveness.

If you're a low scorer on an acceptable scale, you'd probably do better in a sport where you're either competing against someone else, or you can practice your workouts while competing within your personal limits.

CrossFit is a form of high-intensity interval training that focuses on strength and conditioning. Workouts typically consist of functional movements such as pushing, pulling and squatting, all performed at a high level of intensity.

While competitiveness is highly encouraged among CrossFit athletes, Perlus points out that this is not necessarily a negative.

"Competitiveness is not a bad word when used in cooperation", she said. "The way [CrossFit] is formulated, it helps you focus on your own growth in a competitive environment."

CrossFit workouts are also fully scalable to meet the needs of everyone from beginners to advanced athletes.


For people with a high level of neuroticism: Cycling
While the word neuroticism can have negative connotations, studies consider it an adaptive behaviour that helps species survive.

For those who score high on the neuroticism scale, cycling can help you feel comfortable in the face of various challenges, from steep climbs to pushing against increasing resistance.

Cycling is a workout that can be performed at either high or low intensities. It can help promote healthy weight management, strengthen leg muscles and improve cognitive function in older adults.

Studies have also found that cycling can help improve cholesterol levels and lower the chances of having a stroke or heart attack by improving cardiovascular health.

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