It may not seem obvious, but our personality tends to shape our exercise habits. Here’s another way to say it: our workout habits say a lot about our personality traits. Do you like working out in the morning or evening? Do you prefer competitive or non-competitive sports? Do you enjoy working out in groups or alone?
Your answers to these questions reveal something about your personality, and they tell whether you are goal-oriented, sensitive, reserved, outgoing, or mostly self-conscious.
If you are looking to exercise more and stay in shape, it is crucial to first figure out your personality so that you can easily choose exercise routines that resonate with you. This way, you can be sure to sustain your motivation and remain healthier.
The Importance of Knowing Yourself
“Know thyself” might be one of the briefest aphorisms, yet it is packed with powerful messages. But how does it apply to exercise?
Think of it this way: most people know that exercise is good for them and are familiar with the benefits of regular exercise. But have you ever wondered why many people find it extremely difficult to translate that knowledge into consistent, practical action?
The two major reasons many people don’t exercise as often as they know they should are a lack of disciple and not knowing the type of exercise that suits them best. The surest way to develop discipline and keep your motivation up is to first figure out what works for you.
People who exercise regularly have made it a habit. And as you probably already know, you can’t successfully create a new habit until you know yourself. In other words, you can’t maintain the required discipline to exercise as often as you should unless you understand your individual personality – what makes you tick.
A Quick Summary of the Major Personality Traits
The five-factor model of personality commonly referred to as the Big Five, is the widely accepted personality categorization among most psychologists. Each personality ranges between high and low from where each of us functions.
Understanding where you lie on the personality continuum can help you know yourself better and effectively create the exercise habits that suit you.
Without getting into any in-depth analysis, here’s a quick rundown of different traits in the Big Five.
Extraversion refers to the trait associated with extroverts. Individuals on the high end of this personality scale often enjoy being in the company of others. They deliberately seek excitement and are highly sociable.
If you know someone who is mostly energetic, assertive, likes being the center of attention, and isn’t afraid to express themselves both verbally and emotionally, they likely have high extraversion.
Conversely, people with lower extraversion are introverts. These individuals prefer solitude because social situations can drain their energy. They prefer to avoid small talks, and being in the spotlight or the center of attention makes them feel very awkward.
Openness personality is characterized by insight and imagination. People with high openness are often willing to learn and eager to have new experiences. They tend to be creative and perceptive and have a high appreciation for aesthetics and fantasy.
People who tend to stick to more traditional approaches to life are often low in this trait. Embracing change can be a very slow process because they find it difficult to go out of their comfort zone of knowledge.
Being friendly, kind, generous, and affectionate are signs that a person has high agreeableness. These individuals are mostly altruistic and trustworthy and are more inclined to cooperate with others or help others.
On the other hand, people with low agreeableness tend to be manipulative and lack sympathy. They hardly care about others and show little to no interest in other people’s problems.
People with goal-oriented behaviors are said to have high conscientiousness. They are often dutiful, ordered, and self-disciplined, so they are often given to planning and analyzing situations.
Conversely, anyone low in conscientiousness will find it difficult to enjoy order and structure. Sticking to schedules isn’t their strong suit, and they tend to procrastinate a lot, even on crucial tasks, and are erratic in exercise behavior.
Neuroticism is marked by moodiness, sadness, and vulnerability. People with high levels of neuroticism tend to be easily irritable, anxious, and self-conscious. They often experience mood swings and are generally emotionally unstable. These individuals are more likely to overthink situations and have difficulty relaxing, even when there’s no need to feel overwhelmed.
On the other hand, individuals on the lower end of the neuroticism spectrum tend to be more confident and secure and exhibit emotionally resilient attitudes when faced with challenging or stressful situations.
As I mentioned earlier, these traits exist on a scale or continuum, meaning none of our traits are carved in stone. For example, you can be mildly agreeable, moderately agreeable, or highly agreeable.
Here’s something else worth mentioning: no one particular personality trait is automatically good or bad.
For example, neuroticism is often mistaken for a psychological problem, anti-social behavior, or a generally negative trait. But that’s not always the case, as the trait can help people become more goal-oriented.
On the other hand, agreeableness is often misconstrued to mean a positive trait, but people with this trait can be conformists, which isn’t necessarily a positive trait.
The most important thing here is understanding how these personality traits can influence our behaviors in different contexts.
The Relationship Between Personality and Exercise Habits
With all of that out of the way, let’s see how our personality tends to shape our exercise habits. By studying the Big Five personality traits above, you probably already know where you fall. Now, I’ll explain how you can use this information to pick exercise schedules that work best for you and encourage a positive body image.
- High Extraversion: You are more suited for group-based exercise programs that offer opportunities for social interactions. Consider signing up for a gym membership that allows you to work out with others. You might also find dance classes, yoga classes, or something similar more appealing.
- Low Extraversion: Working out at home or alone will likely bring out the best in you. Consider solitary exercises, such as going for a bike ride or jogging by yourself.
- High Openness: Incorporate various physical activities into your exercise programs rather than doing only one exercise routine for too long. Mix things up every once in a while, and try to exercise in different places, including at home, in nature, at the gym, and even at the beach.
- Low Openness: You’ll find exercising more appealing if you maintain a stable routine. Find a couple of exercises you like and do them often. This way, you won’t be forced to learn new techniques and lose motivation. Also, choose only one place to do your exercises, preferably in a familiar setting, rather than switching locations.
- High Agreeableness: You’re more likely to enjoy exercise programs that involve teamwork and cooperation. Avoid exercises that involve competing with others, as this might be too overpowering for you.
- Low Agreeableness: Friendly contests and competitive sports will likely appeal more to you. You are more likely to benefit from a couple of workout buddies that will challenge you.
- High Conscientiousness: You are less likely to need a trainer or supervisor. Joining a more organized exercise program might be more appealing to you.
- Low Conscientiousness: Consider getting a trainer who will hold you accountable and keep you on your toes. Also, having an activity tracker or a mobile app might be beneficial in helping you monitor your progress.
- High Neuroticism: Seek out fun and relaxing workout environments, and remember to take baby steps when starting a new exercise routine.
- Low Neuroticism: Consider incorporating high-intensity exercises in your workout routines. Choose exercises that challenge you or put you under pressure, as these workouts help you stay more motivated.
Indeed, our personality tends to shape our exercise habit, and unless you understand what makes you tick, it will always be an uphill task trying to push yourself to exercise as often as you know you should. Your motivation will easily wane and fade if you choose workout programs that don’t fit your personality traits.
Conversely, understanding your personality and choosing exercise programs and schedules that suit you will help you stay on top of your workout routines.