If you can’t stand group sports, but love cozy, solo yoga sessions done via podcast, then I’m with you. Your personality has a lot of sway on different aspects of your life — and a new study says that even what workout works best for you is linked to your personality type. Because when you have a workout plan that syncs up with what you most love to do, you're more likely to stick with it over time.
Published in the journal Heliyon, the new study shows that there are important differences in terms of what motivates people to exercise. Essentially, if you’re bored with a workout, or annoyed by it you’re not as likely to stay with it over time. It’s important to have a look at what motivates you initially in order to pick a workout routine that you'll keep doing, researchers say.
“Many individuals who initiate exercise programs may actually select activities that conflict with their interests, styles, personalities, and/or reasons for engagement,” said lead study author Allyson Box from Kennesaw State University. Certain key personality traits determined whether people were more into individual or group sports, gyms, at-home workouts (hello, YouTube Yoga), or outdoor activities.
What the researchers found, after surveying 400 subjects through social media, was that figuring out what motivates you when you work out — community? feeling stronger after each rep? getting up earlier in the morning? sleeping better? — is going to help you figure out what workout works for you. It also can help you figure out whether you'll enjoy working out more or less: "Individuals who were more motivated by intrinsic reasons such as enjoyment, challenge, and stress management, exercised more frequently," a press release about the study said.
In a similar study published in 2018 by the British Psychological Society (BPS), matching up your exercise routine with your personality type can help ensure that your program is successful for you.
“The most important piece of advice to come out of this research is that there is not one type of exercise that is suited to everyone, researcher John Hackston, psychologist and head of thought leadership at OPP, at the British Psychological Society's annual conference of the Division of Occupational Psychology in Stratford-upon-Avon, said in a press release on that research.
"There can be pressure to follow the crowd to the gym or sign up to the latest exercise fad, but it would be much more effective for [people] to match their personality type to an exercise plan that is more likely to last the test of time."
So, how do you know what kinds of exercise are best for you? Box and her team suggest that you first think about your personality traits, and your reasons for wanting to work out in the first place. If you’ve tried a bunch of workouts, but get bored or (literally) drop the ball, consider that you might be trying the square peg in a round hole approach to working out. Instead, researchers suggest that you investigate the types of exercise you find fun to do, and get clear on your *why* for wanting to get stronger and healthier. Aligning your routine with your interests, values, and key personality traits, will help give you a better shot at sticking to your program long-term.