Personality Types and Personal Fitness

It’s estimated that only around 20-25% of the population gets enough exercise, while many people suffer from diseases linked to physical inactivity. Research has repeatedly confirmed that regular exercise is effective at reducing the risk of many health issues, both mental and physical. The benefit of exercise is not secret information – both concerned scientists and profiteering corporations have extolled the benefits of physical activity for decades. So, why are so few people getting enough exercise?

To find links between our willingness to exercise and our personality traits, types or type groups, we asked our readers to answer the following question: “You exercise less than you should.” It appears that the majority of us, among all personality types, are aware that we don’t get enough exercise. However, some personality types are more likely to be concerned about physical fitness, and to actually exercise, than others.

The data suggests our desire for exercise affects our participation, but so does our comfort with socializing. Common avenues for exercise typically have a social component. Team sports require a team. A trip to the gym puts us into a group setting, even if we plug our ears with headphones and bury our noses in magazines while on the treadmill. A jog down the street puts us on display to other pedestrians as well as passing motorists, to say nothing of the highly social atmosphere of a judo class or yoga group.

The social component of exercise can be prohibitive to Introverted personality types, of whom 79.04% agreed with the statement. Not only is a social environment a factor, but exercise requires an interest in fine-tuning an external display, which can be draining or stressful for Introverts. This is at odds with their tendency to focus on more private pursuits. It might also push them toward exercising at home to avoid the social pressure that other types may benefit from.

Extraverted types, by contrast, are more likely to leave their private worlds for more social environments, which naturally opens up more opportunities for activities involving exercise. It’s unsurprising then, that far fewer Extraverts – though still a majority – reported not getting enough exercise, with 69.08% agreeing with the statement.

On the Identity scale, personality types with the Turbulent trait reported being less likely to be satisfied with how much exercise they get than their Assertive counterparts, with 78.87% of respondents agreeing with the statement. In the cases of those Turbulent personality types who realize they don’t exercise enough, this could be a tool for motivation. However, their naturally driven personalities could lead them to fixate on exercise, to the detriment of other facets of their lives. One doesn’t necessarily need the physique of a track-ready Greyhound to be happy and healthy.

Conversely, personality types with the Assertive trait reported much lower agreement with the statement, at 66.80%, taking a more accepting stance on their fitness. The risk for these personality types is that their less self-conscious nature could lead to complacency, as they rationalize away the need for specific exercise goals. More defined self-intent could aid those with the Assertive trait to ensure their fitness accomplishments are consistent with their desires.

As these two scales form our Strategy layer, let’s look at how each strategy approaches exercise.

Constant Improvement

Personality types following the Constant Improvement strategy were the least likely to report being satisfied with the amount of exercise they get (and the most likely to agree with the statement, with 81.88% agreeing). Having certain fitness goals fits with the perfectionistic tendencies of Constant Improvement personality types. It may be that these personalities are less forgiving in their self-appraisal of fitness, often believing themselves to be underachievers in spite of real effort and accomplishment. In this category, the personality type most likely to agree with the statement was the Turbulent Mediator (INFP-T), with a stunning 85.51% believing that they exercise less than they should. The type least likely to agree was the Turbulent Defender (ISFJ-T), with 77.79% agreeing.

Social Engagement

Social Engagement types, owing to their Turbulent trait, may experience the same lack of satisfaction with their level of exercise as their Introverted counterparts – 74.59% agreed with the statement, the second-highest of the strategies – but their Extraversion makes them more comfortable with actually getting out there and doing it. An awareness of social status may play as much a role here as the exercise itself in pursuing fitness goals – Social Engagement types tend to pay a lot of attention to how others view them. Among these types, Turbulent Campaigners (ENFP-T) were the most likely to agree with the statement, at 79.02%, and Turbulent Executives (ESTJ-T) were the least likely, with 65.78% agreeing.

Confident Individualism

In contrast, reserved and independent Confident Individualism types may devise a pursuit reliant on their own efforts, paying little attention to popular activities, and this is reflected in their lower overall agreement with the statement – though still a clear majority of 72.25%. In this group, Assertive Mediators (INFP-A) agreed with the statement the most, at 78.71%, and Assertive Logisticians agreed the least, with 66.55%.

People Mastery

People Mastery types seem to be the most content with their efforts to exercise, having agreed with the statement only 63.54% of the time in our survey, the lowest rate among the strategies. Types in this group are more likely to be attracted to team sports, fitness classes, and social forms of exercise. On the other hand, their self-confident nature could lead them to take their fitness for granted, or make them overestimate how much they actually exercise. In this strategy group, the type most likely to agree were the Assertive Entertainers (ESFP-A), with 67.61% agreeing. Assertive Executives (ESTJ-A) had no equals, with only 57.89% of the respondents stating that they didn’t get enough exercise. While this still means that most respondents belonging to this personality type believe they should exercise more, compare this figure to that of the Turbulent Mediators!

Most of us aren’t doing enough for our physical fitness – or at least we believe so. Appearances aside, the fact that exercise can improve not only our physical health, but also our mental acuity and emotional stability, should make us all consider our priorities. By understanding our personality type and its unique strengths and weaknesses, we can find better ways to incorporate a beneficial amount of exercise into our lives by working with our natural tendencies rather than against them.

How fit do you think you are? What prevents you from exercising more? Share your thoughts below.

You can see the full set of data, including correlation coefficients, in the Academy. Please also consider participating in our Member Surveys!

1 week ago
I find this to be an interesting study, mainly because a lot of it is perspective. My ENFP-A younger sister never stops moving, and is constantly doing gymnastics around the house. She still believes she doesn’t get enough exercise. My younger brother, an ISTJ (with strong feeling tendencies), prefers not to get off the couch and away from the TV for anything but school. I don’t think he realizes how much of a problem this will be once football season comes. As for me, I (an INTJ-A) should probably exercise more, considering I need to train for the next basketball and show choir seasons...
1 year ago
I don't specifically exercise at all, but I eat relatively healthy and generally move around a lot, I never stay in one posture for too long for example. I also often run to trains and busses. ;) So what would be the answer that's expected from me to this question? I don't exercise, but I also don't think I should exercise more. (INTJ-A, M21)
3 years ago
My overall type is second-most-likely to fall short of exercise for fitness goals, and if I look at the goals set by the media, I certainly do fall short. Good call there! I don't jog, I don't work out, there is very little I could brag about. But as an introvert, I have good inner focus on what is best for me. I find that "confident individualism" means that I have analyzed my "ancestral exercise types" and personal preferences to set my own goals. I am quite satisfied with how my own program results in feeling good in my own body, even though it does not fit what the media tells us we should be doing. I am careful about what I eat, do stretch exercises most mornings, and try to walk over 10,000 paces more than 3 days a week with my average between 6,000 and 8,000 paces per day for the week (which includes days when I am home-bound and sedentary). This program, which I've followed for over a year, gives me good time to observe what is going on around me, and re-center my thoughts as I walk. You are very right in saying that the social aspect of competitive workouts leaves me unlikely to continue with them, but not accurate in predicting that this would leave me without a program of my own that I would follow.
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