Finding Your Fitness Personality
By Allison Hoit
Being physically active might provoke positive associations like stress relief, strength, and uplifting endorphins for some. For others, images of pain and torture may come to mind, making physical activity feel like a distasteful chore. No matter which side of the spectrum you identify with, the good news is that you can fall in love with physical activity. With Valentine’s Day being this month, February is often associated with love, so in this Training Corner we’ll explore how you can find and choose activities that you love!
The first step on this discovery is to define what is meant by physical activity. Refer back to the previous Training Corner, A Fresh Perspective on Physical Activity, to review the four categories of physical activity and minimum guidelines you should strive for. High-intensity exercise like you may have pictured when associating being physically active with feelings of pain and torture is not the only type of activity that will generate benefits. In the big picture of physical activity, everything counts, and finding those activities that you love will set you up for success. Ever wondered why you just can’t get into Zumba® or would rather exercise alone than with a group or partner? This can more than likely be attributed to your “fitness personality”¹. Research has shown that our activity choices may be influenced by personality, and that if we choose activities to complement our personality traits we are more likely to participate in them¹. Some elements of a good match are¹:
Social Interaction: Exercising alone, taking a group fitness class, or playing a team sport all require varying degrees of social interaction. Consider the social dimension of the activity you choose and how that pairs with your personality.
Control vs. Impulsiveness: Are you a person that thrives on structure and control, or do you enjoy the freedom of spontaneity? Some sports and activities require control of body and mind, while other unpredictable activities allow for freedom of movement.
Motivation: Your style of motivation can relate to the types of physical activities you might enjoy or be more likely to choose. Individuals who are intrinsically motivated perform an activity for the benefits of satisfaction, pleasure, fun, and excitement, for example. Individuals who are extrinsically motivated perform an activity for the end result, such as weight loss or to maintain good health, and may or may not actually enjoy the activity itself. Motivation can be expressed on a scale of none to extrinsic to intrinsic.
Aggression: In terms of physical activity, aggression can represent a level of assertiveness related to force and effort. If this is an element of your personality, activities such as weight training or martial arts might be a good fit. On the other hand, activities such as yoga represent a lower level of aggression and might be better for some.
Competition: Some might thrive in a competitive setting, while others might prefer an individual competition with themselves or none at all. Depending on your personality, physical activity such as CrossFit or competitive sports might be preferable for those that love a little healthy competition. Consider this aspect of your personality when exploring physical activities that you love.
Mental Focus: Your level of focus can be directly related to the type of activity you choose. For example, during a cardiovascular activity such as running an individual might want to listen to music or watch television from a treadmill and not completely focus on what their body is doing. On the other hand, an activity such as weight training or yoga requires a high level of focus to ensure proper form and mind-body connection.
Degree of Risk: Some might have a more thrill-seeking personality and therefore might choose activities that involve a high level of risk. Risk can also be seen as psychological and impact activities chosen by those who prefer a lower level of risk. Examples include exercising alone vs. in a group setting because the level of risk of embarrassment is much lower. In terms of physical risk, contact sports such as football might be preferred over non-contact sports such as golf or tennis.
Thinking about physical activity in terms of your personality can help you determine your “fitness personality”¹. Knowing this and matching it closely to activities that you choose just might impact your level of enjoyment and adherence to physical activity. To put the personality dimensions described above into perspective, refer to this Fitness Personality Profile chart². This exercise can apply to those who are new to physical activity or who are stuck in a mundane routine. With love in the air this month, I encourage you to seek enjoyment in your physical activity routine by finding and choosing activities that you love.
Action Tip: Review the seven personality dimension elements and then refer to the Fitness Personality Profile chart². Select activities that you love instead of ones that you dread and do them on a regular basis. Establishing a healthy lifestyle can only happen if it is both enjoyable and something that you choose.
¹Gavin J. Pairing personality with activity: New tool for inspiring active lifestyles. Physician Sports Med 2004. 3217–24.24 [PubMed]
²Physician and Sportsmedicine 32(12): 17-24, Gavin J. Pairing exercise with activity: new tools for inspiring active lifestyles, 17-24, 2004, with permission from JTE Multimedia. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/21/fitness-personality_n_4110442.html.