It’s tempting to categorize yourself when it comes to exercise, either classifying yourself as an “exercise person” or “not an exercise person” (I refuse to use the term “couch potato”). But in reality, it’s not that simple. Sure, you might get anxious thinking about going to the gym and trying to lift weights, but at the same time, you’ll eagerly spend hours exploring a new city by foot, racking up 10 miles by the end of the day. Of course, some of this has to do with your interests and levels of fitness, but a lot of exercise habits are actually directly related to your personality and motivation.
As it turns out, understanding your unique personality can help you determine what motivates you when it comes to exercising, and how you can stay fit. A recent study published in the journal Heliyon explored the relationship between personality and how frequently people work out, if they are likely to stick to their routine, and the type of movement they prefer. Ultimately, the study’s findings didn’t link any specific personality traits with workout types; instead, the researchers found that understanding your motivation for working out was the biggest indicator of whether or not you’ll stick to your fitness plan.
“We encourage individuals to reflect on their personality and reasons for becoming physically active before diving into a program to ensure they engage in an activity that is compatible with their interest, personality, and goals,” the study authors wrote in the article. Here’s what you need to know about your personality and motivation in order to make the most of your workout:
Pinpoint your specific motivation
People exercise for different reasons, whether it’s to improve their health, get in shape to play a sport, or reap the stress-busting benefits of movement. The findings of this study demonstrate that our motivation for working out can actually predict how frequently we exercise. For example, people who were primarily motivated by intrinsic reasons — like enjoyment, challenging themselves, or stress management — worked out more frequently than those with extrinsic motivations, like getting the “perfect body,” or the social status that they think may come with being fit. Interestingly, the authors found that CrossFit participants had the highest levels of intrinsic motivation.
Reframe your motivation, if necessary
So what if your reasons are truly extrinsic? Let’s say you take a moment to reflect before you even step on the treadmill, and if you’re being completely honest with yourself, realize that you’re actually taking the time to exercise because you think it will make you more attractive and desirable. In order to still maximize the benefits of your workout and stick with a fitness plan, it may be helpful to reframe your motivation. Sure, exercising may help you achieve the physical appearance you want, but it can also improve your actual physical health, adding years to your life by making your heart stronger, lowering your risk of diabetes, and decreasing stress levels. Remind yourself of these scientifically proven health benefits and use these as your true motivation.
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