- The level of satisfaction you get from a particular exercise can vary greatly depending on your personality.
- If a specific fitness routine doesn’t complement your dominant personality traits, you may be less motivated to stick with it.
- The ‘Big Five’ inventory is a simple test that can help you identify where you fall on the spectrum of five major personality traits.
- This can help you determine the forms of exercise that may provide you with the biggest benefits.
How much you’re getting out of your workout 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 for the long term, we need intrinsic motivation,” Hayley Perlus, PhD, a sports and performance psychologist, told Healthline. “We need a sense of autonomy. We need to be doing it for ourselves.”
In addition to whether or not someone is self-motivated, Brenley Shapiro, MSW, RSW, RP, an NHL mental performance coach for the Arizona Coyotes, lists “instinctual competitive drive, introversion/extroversion levels, and self-management potential” as playing key roles in the kind of activities people are drawn to and how well they will succeed at them.
In other words, your personality type can influence not only the kind of exercise you enjoy but how likely you may be motivated to stick with it.
Whether you’re thinking about beginning a new fitness routine or shaking up your current one, knowing your personality type might help you determine which workout will be the best fit.
How to determine your personality type
Assessing personality has never been easier with so many self-report tools available online, like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a sixteen-subtype personality scale, and the Enneagram, which organizes people into nine different subtypes.
However, it is worth noting that despite these scales’ accessibility and popularity, neither is considered the most scientifically valid or reliable.
Instead, numerous scientists and researchers prefer using the Big Five Personality Scale, which assesses people based on five major traits, all of which exist along a continuum.
These traits are:
- neuroticism (one’s inability to withstand stress)
A number of websites offer versions of the Big Five personality test, with one popular option being the Big Five inventory. This is a short test that uses your answers to 50 multiple-choice questions in order to determine where you fall on the spectrum for each trait.
You can take the Big Five inventory here.
How to find the workout that is best for your personality
Knowing where you fall on the spectrum of each personality trait within the Big Five can help you determine which of the following types of exercise will either be the best fit – or ones you may want to avoid.
For people with a high level of openness: Hiking
Openness correlates to adventure-seeking and a willingness to try new things.
Hiking, with the ever-changing weather and opportunities to explore uncharted territory, can be a very appealing activity for those with this personality trait. Hiking is a great way to burn calories, and a number of studies have highlighted its mental health benefits too.
A 2019 study found that people who spent at least two hours a week hiking, whether 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 throughout an 8-hour workday can help lower both blood sugar and blood pressure.
For people with a high level of conscientiousness: High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Perlus said that people who score high in the area of conscientiousness are usually attracted to structure and order. They are typically 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 bouts of intense activity followed by low intensity rest periods.
Though HIIT workouts can vary greatly, classes are often programmed with specific targets in mind, and they offer a clear plan for people to follow.
A typical HIIT workout will be 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.
For people with a low level of extraversion: Yoga
People who score on the lower end of the extraversion scale are usually recharged by spending time alone and find social interactions more draining than those who score closer to the top end of this personality trait.
Yoga is a great workout for more introverted personality types, as the entirety of the practice is centered around turning your attention inward and offers numerous physical, mental, and spiritual health benefits.
While most people may commonly think of yoga as a way to improve strength and flexibility, yoga includes a wide range of practices. Some of these may not even focus on the physical but instead aim to improve your mind and spirit through activities such as meditation or breathwork.
Numerous studies have found that yoga may also help reduce anxiety, improve sleep, and boost your immune system too.
For people with a low level of Agreeableness: CrossFit
Agreeableness is a willingness to go with the flow and let others lead. On the opposite end of that scale is competitiveness.
If you’re a person who scores low on the agreeable scale, you would likely thrive in a sport where you are either working against someone else or where you are able to gamify workouts by competing against your own personal “bests.”
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 isn’t necessarily a negative.
“Competitiveness is not a bad word when we use it cooperatively,” she said. “The way [CrossFit] is formulated, you focus on your own growth in a competitive environment.”
CrossFit workouts are also completely scalable to meet the needs of anyone from beginners to advanced athletes.
For people with a high level of Neuroticism: Cycling
While the word neuroticism can have negative connotations, studies find this to be an adaptive behavior that aids in species’ survival.
For those who score high on the neuroticism scale, cycling can help you get comfortable facing different challenges, from steep uphill 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 may help improve cholesterol levels and lower your chances of having a stroke or heart attack by boosting your cardiovascular health.
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