How Does My Personality Affect My Exercise Routine?

It seems that the type of exercise you choose to do, and how often you do it can be heavily influenced by your personality.  In addition, exercise can affect your future personality. 

Want to learn more?  Read on!

What is Personality?

Personality describes the unique patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviours that distinguish a person from others.

Many researchers have concluded that there are 5 main personality traits, known as the Big Five, and we can remember them as OCEAN.

  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

Openness and Exercise

Openness considers traits of having wide interests, being imaginative and insightful.  High scorers are creative and seek novelty.  Low scorers on the other hand prefer routines and have strong values.

Openness may lend itself to specific activities like hiking or trail running and recreational obstacle races (e.g., Mud Runs, Spartan Race, or Warrior Dash).

Openness traits also are related to the adoption of technology-supported fitness programs. In short, you’re more likely to wear a fitness tracker or use an app! 

Those who are more open prefer unsupervised and less structured activities too!

Conscientiousness and Exercise

Conscientiousness considers traits like organisation and being thorough.  Those with high scores here tend to be motivated, disciplined and trustworthy.  Low scorers are easily distracted.

People with higher levels of conscientiousness are more likely to follow through with physical activity compared with people who score lower on this trait.   Individuals who score high on this trait are self-disciplined and diligent in carrying out behaviours that are well-planned. 

Conscientiousness is related to a preference for strenuous, high-intensity exercise, whereas those with lower conscientiousness scores are more likely to engage in moderate-intensity aerobic and weight training.

Goal setting is also important for those who score highly on conscientiousness. 

Extraversion and Exercise

Extraversion encompasses traits such as being talkative, energetic, and assertive.  This trait measures cheerfulness, initiative, and communication.  Those who score high on extraversion are sociable, warm, and affectionate.  They are more likely to enjoy large crowds of people.  Those with low scores are introverted and reserved and prefer a slow and steady pace. 

A person that scores high in extraversion may have a preference toward HIIT and group-based workouts. Alternatively, those with lower levels of extraversion prefer lower levels of arousal and will often avoid intense stimuli.  Those lower in extraversion will likely feel more comfortable exercising at home or in private settings. Yoga and/or Pilates may be the preferred activity of choice.   

Agreeableness and Exercise

Agreeableness includes being sympathetic, kind, and affectionate.  High scorers here are generally friendly empathic and warm.  Low scorers tend to be shy, suspicious, and egocentric.    

It is thought that this personality trait has little impact on physical activity.  That said, the easy-going, light-hearted nature of those with high levels of agreeableness might prevent them from reporting negative side-effects of an exercise activity (e.g., soreness, injury, etc.) so they may be more likely to skip recovery days. 

Neuroticism and Exercise

Neuroticism covers traits of being moody, tense, and anxious.  Individuals with high scores here are generally apprehensive and less self-assured. They generally have poor self-control.  Low scorers are calm, confident, and content.    

Low neuroticism tends to be related to greater levels of physical activity.  High scores for neuroticism are associated with significant perceived barriers to exercise participation.  But what’s really interesting is that even high scorers can improve how often they work out by choosing exercise routines that can improve their belief in themselves. 

Personality and Motivation

Those with high scores on extraversion, openness, and conscientiousness tend to rely on intrinsic motivation and may be less reliant on external motivation from a trainer or coach.

Alternatively, those of us with higher levels of neuroticism will often look for social norms as motivational cues to behaviour.  In short, we’ll see what others are doing and enjoying and consider giving it a go. 

Exercise and Personality

Not only does our personality influence the type of exercise we may choose to do, but it seems that regularly engaging in exercise can actually influence our personality in the future too. 

Adults who get more physical activity are more likely to show positive personality traits, such as openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness (wanting to do things well). The more active people are, the more these traits develop positively, into and throughout adulthood.

Personality Tests

There are a number of personality tests on available for you to complete, but the big 5 is the most rigorously tested. 

Do you think your personality influences your exercise routine?  Or do you go against the grain?  Let us know!