Life Wellbeing It’s not easy, being fit – especially if you have this personality type
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It’s not easy, being fit – especially if you have this personality type

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Finally, another thing to blame your COVID curves on – your personality.

Wait, what?

You heard right. A team of researchers has discovered certain personality types are better at sticking to fitness regimes than others.

And it’s not the kind of people you might expect.

While the extroverted, gung-ho types might be good at picking up a new routine – say, a six-week bootcamp – they’re not very good at sticking to it once the camp is finished and there’s no audience for their push-ups

Instead, the study suggests, the best trainers in long-term fitness programs are ‘quiet achievers’.

Breaking it down

The research team from the University of Pennsylvania, headed by Xisui Shirley Chen, recruited 600-odd overweight American adults and sorted them into three groups.

(The trials had already been done, but this project went back and re-examined the data, sorting the participants via their personality traits.)

All of the participants were overweight or obese, most were male and the mean age was 39. Photo: Getty

The first group were marked as extroverted and motivated. Of all three groups, they had higher levels of grit, conscientiousness and self-belief. Most of them had used a wearable fitness device before, which is how the study was tracked.

The second group weren’t as active as the first group, nor were they as social. Most of them hadn’t used a wearable before.

They also had lower levels of self-belief but had pretty robust levels of grit and conscientiousness. They didn’t have a lot of social support, and weren’t big on risk-taking behaviour.

Participants were given wearable devices to track their step counts. Photo: Getty

The final group was categorised as the least motivated of the lot.

They were the most neurotic and the least conscientious. Like group two, they’re not extroverts, but they also displayed the highest levels of health related risky behaviour. They also had the worst sleep scores of everyone.

Everyone was given a wearable device to measure their step counts and each group was split into three different training classes – one motivated by competition, one by support and the third by teamwork.

The program went for 24 weeks, with 12 weeks of follow-ups.

The tortoise beats the hare

Group one – let’s call them our hares – showed marked change when they were motivated by competition. Support and teamwork motivators didn’t make a difference to them, the results showed.

However, after the initial 24 weeks, all of our hares stopped putting in effort – without the element of competition, there was no motivation for them.

Why? The researchers mused their high levels of self-belief, conscientiousness and grit might give them the push to perform in social situations – such as a competition – but they do little to form long-term habits. The research suggested these sorts of people would likely benefit from ongoing incentive programs.

Group two was a completely different story. Each class showed showed an increase in their daily steps during the 24-week period, and then sustained increases throughout the follow-ups.

Fitness isn’t a destination, it’s a journey. Photo: Getty

Researchers said these guys could just be the ideal participants. While they were less active to begin with – and reported lower exercise self-efficacy – they had the traits of conscientiousness and grit that made them care about their health.

They’re also less extroverted and have less social support networks, which meant structured social incentives had a greater impact and helped them to form ongoing habits.

The third group showed no change in their daily steps throughout the program, nor in the 12-week follow ups.

Researchers said this was indicative of a “distress” personality, where most personally designed programs and support networks were need to improve their health and lives overall.