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Updated: Aug 4, 2022

“A mind that is open to a new idea never returns to its original size” Albert Einstein

How does it make you feel if I were to say your personality could be the main culprit in your endless cycle of fitness failures?… Probably not so good as this suggests you might need a personality change and how the heck do you go about that!… Don’t worry I’m not proposing this but what I am suggesting is opening your mind to the behavioural aspects surrounding fitness more…

Do you notice a particular personality trait in people that are nailing their training sessions and programmes and getting results?… Possibly but we’re all so unique and as a coach I see many different personality’s getting results so I’d say it’s wrong to assume you need a particular personality to achieve your fitness goals but there is evidence that individual traits may pre-dispose you to better adherence or maybe a particular choice of fitness..

Researchers have discovered what they term “The Big Five” personality traits that can help describe an individual’s general tendency to behave in predictable ways… These traits are:

  • Openness

  • Conscientiousness

  • Extraversion

  • Agreeableness

  • Neuroticism

A simple test has been designed to measure these traits in people and provide a general idea of what level you reside through a scoring system… The good news is you can do this free or a more in-depth explanation for a small fee using the links at the bottom of this post… The test itself is pretty simple, you should give it a go but make sure you’re in a clear state of mind when doing or the results may be biased…

You may be wondering how this can help you better adhere to your fitness regime?… Well, if you’re open minded enough this could be the start of a journey to have a better understanding of yourself so that you can figure out and construct a plan to change your behaviour to align more towards your goals instead of away from them…

Researchers Allen et al. (2017) found personality important for change in physical activity but also exercise had little impact on changing personality... For example, they found Higher Conscientiousness & Openness predicted subsequent increases in physical activity whereas Agreeableness predicted decreases…

Previously Allen & Laborde (2014) discovered reviewing literature that Conscientiousness & Neuroticism were important for athletic success and that Extraversion & Conscientiousness may predict physical activity levels… However, Box et al (2019) Et al examined the big five personality traits in those participating in different types of physical activity finding that traits were quite similar regardless of whether your chosen activity was CrossFit, group fitness classes, aerobic type training or resistance training… They also found those participating in CrossFit & sport were more motivated by fitness related reasons and those engaging in aerobic & resistance training were more motivated by interpersonal reasons… Nevertheless despite differences they found a trend that all participants regardless of exercise choice for greater intrinsic motivation-regulation styles…

These are only a few studies on this topic and to be honest they have many limitations so drawing definite conclusions is problematic, but researchers strongly recommend that building awareness of these traits could help in part improve exercise behaviour… Most people dislike exercise and despite feeling good afterwards the pain endured to achieve this for most is not worth it and research suggests this leads to a negative affect response reducing the likelihood of future bouts…

The purpose of this post is not to confuse you with research but rather to make you aware of some psychological aspects for you to consider that may well need your attention for you to take more seriously… Investing in yourself is important but repeating the same behaviours over and over especially using the latest fad or fitness trend is not the best investment if you keep ending up back where you started or not quite achieving you goal!…

Have an open mind and start exploring new options with as much attention you give to training your physical body, after all if psychology research brings to the fold problems in our behaviour wouldn’t it be worth considering or even better pursuing a solution!…

“Strengthen the individual, start with yourself, take care of yourself, define who you are, refine your personality, choose your destination” Dr Jordan B Peterson

Allen. S.M, Magee. A.C, Vella. A.S & Laborde. S (2017). Bidirectional associations between personality and physical activity in adulthood. Health Psychology, 36 (4) 332-336.

Allen. M, Laborde. S (2014). The role of personality in sport and physical activity. Current directions in Psychological Science, 23 (6) 460-465

Box, G.A, Frito, Y, Brown, C, Petruzzelo, J. S (2019). Individual differences influence exercise behaviour: how personality, motivation, and behavioural regulation vary amount exercise mode preferences. Heliyon 5, e01459

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