Sweating It Out: Personality Type and Exercise Habits
The start of a new year often brings health and fitness to the forefront of our minds (not to mention the forefront of the news cycle, advertisements, and your friends’ social media accounts). Perhaps, like many people, you made a New Year’s resolution to eat healthier, exercise more, or get fit. After a month or so, you may be crushing those goals – or you may be crashing and burning. Maybe you abandoned your resolution weeks ago. (If so, you’re certainly not alone.)
Here at 16Personalities, we thought now would be a good time to explore one aspect of exercise that might relate to achieving our fitness goals: scheduling time to exercise regularly. We asked our readers to agree or disagree with the statement, “You set aside specific time each week dedicated to working out.” It turns out that, with only 43% agreeing overall, most of us don’t.
Which personality types are more likely to schedule time for exercise? Does having a schedule mean you’ll stick with it? What if you just can’t stand the idea of a regular routine? Let’s jump right in and work through the results below (for now, you can leave the heavy lifting to us).
Sentinels (49% agreeing)
When it came to the personality aspects that determine our Roles (Energy, Nature, and Tactics), there was only one that played a significant part in this study: Tactics. Readers with the Judging trait were 16% more likely than those with the Prospecting trait to schedule dedicated time for exercise (51% vs. 35% agreeing, respectively).
Sentinels and other personalities with the Judging trait are known for developing strong habits, so it’s not really surprising that this extends to exercise. Judging types like structure and organization in their lives. Planning out schedules and sticking to routines comes naturally to them. Sentinels in particular tend to excel at self-discipline. They take a pragmatic approach: given all their other responsibilities, they may feel that if they don’t set aside specific time dedicated to working out, they’ll never find the time to do it.
And therein lies an important caveat: inflexibility can often go hand in hand with self-discipline and structure. If a Sentinel misses a scheduled workout, they might be more likely than other personality types to give up for the day rather than adjust and try to fit it in later. And if this happens too often, they could wind up exercising less than those who don’t plan a workout schedule. This possibility can be especially challenging for Sentinels who are just beginning to attempt to develop a habit of regular exercise.
Analysts and Diplomats (43% and 41%)
The Analyst and Diplomat Roles consist of a mix of Judging and Prospecting personality types, so they fell into the middle of our results. Whether their motivations for exercise are more logical or emotional, these Intuitive personalities probably like to make their workouts all about novelty – trying new activities and mixing things up rather than sticking to a rigid routine. So, as a group, their attitude toward scheduled workout regimens seems to be about the same: many are willing to do it, but most aren’t.
Interestingly, though, the individual personality types who agreed with our statement at the highest and lowest rates were an Analyst and two Diplomats. Assertive Commanders (ENTJ-A) and Assertive Protagonists (ENFJ-A) tied as the most likely to agree (65% each), while Turbulent Mediators (INFP-T) were the least likely to agree (25%). The Judging and Prospecting traits certainly influenced these results, but the Strategies may have played an even bigger role, which we’ll discuss in more detail in the Strategies section below.
Explorers proved to be the most averse to dedicating specific time each week to working out. Their Prospecting personality trait does tend to make it difficult for spontaneous Explorers to stick to a repetitive schedule or routine. But even if the steady, monotonous thud of feet pounding on a treadmill every week holds little romance for Explorers, that certainly doesn’t mean that they don’t exercise frequently or even regularly. They may just go about it a different way.
Many Explorers, for instance, are outdoor enthusiasts. They may put in well over the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week by cycling, surfing, or skiing. But such pursuits depend on factors like when the rain lets up, when the waves swell, or when fresh snow coats the mountain – not on when the clock strikes 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
Flexibility and variety can keep exercise interesting, but Explorers should bear in mind that their preferred approach won’t always work. If the weather doesn’t cooperate for a while, for example, or if they skip their workout too many times because something more exciting comes up, it can be easy for exercise to slide to the back burner. At times like these, they may need a backup plan, and scheduling specific times for workouts might help them stay active.
People Mastery (53% agreeing)
As far as the Strategies were concerned, Extraversion and Assertiveness correlated with higher rates of agreement. Although neither personality trait represented majority agreement, Extraverts were 13% more likely than Introverts to agree with our statement (49% vs. 36%), while Assertive readers were 11% more likely than Turbulent readers to agree (49% vs. 38%). People Masters – including Assertive Commanders and Assertive Protagonists – topped the results.
People Masters and other Extraverts, as social creatures, are more likely than Introverts to work out at specific, scheduled times because they probably aren’t exercising alone. Whether they’re planning time to work out with a buddy or sweating it out in a group spin class that runs on a regular schedule, Extraverts often find that working out with others can make exercise more fun and provide a support system to keep them motivated.
Confident and relaxed, Assertive personality types may feel more comfortable than many Turbulent types with taking the time they need to take care of themselves, including scheduling their workouts. Because they’re not always pushing themselves to extremes to achieve goals, they also don’t stress out about missing a workout – they’re confident that they’ll make it up later or that they can afford the occasional break.
Assertive Commanders and Assertive Protagonists both tend to be determined leaders who enjoy inspiring others. These People Masters share a strong need to set a positive example for others to follow. For a majority, that apparently includes modeling good exercise habits, which they probably do in group settings. Commanders and Protagonists likely appreciate that they can’t be effective leaders if they don’t keep themselves healthy and strong, so they’re often willing to make a more serious commitment to fitness.
Social Engagement and Confident Individualism (45% and 43%)
Like Analysts and Diplomats, Social Engagers (Extraverted, Turbulent types) and Confident Individualists (Introverted, Assertive types) landed in the middle of the results because of their mix of personality traits. Social Engagers may be drawn to the social possibilities of exercise, but their shaky self-esteem could discourage them from planning or following a set workout schedule. Confident Individualists know what they’re good at and like to rely on themselves – if they’re not very confident when it comes to exercising, they’ll probably find it harder to turn it into a regular habit.
Constant Improvement (33%)
Constant Improvers, including Turbulent Mediators, were the least likely personalities to set aside specific time dedicated to working out, despite being driven individuals who are always looking to improve themselves. Planning a regular workout schedule might feel too intimidating to these perfectionists, especially if they don’t already have a strong exercise habit – if they can’t stick to the schedule, they’ll be setting themselves up for failure, and that’s always hard for Turbulent types to take. As Introverts, they may also find the noise, crowds, and general stimulation of a gym environment less than appealing.
Turbulent Mediators may experience these challenges all the more acutely due to their sensitive nature. Mediators, particularly Turbulent ones, are prone to forgetting to take care of themselves, since they get too wrapped up in other priorities, such as their work, their families, and helping others. As important as exercise is, the stress of juggling so many tasks may make the idea of scheduling dedicated workout time seem impossible to these personalities.
As we have seen, most members of our community don’t set aside specific time every week dedicated to working out, and that’s understandable – finding time for anything can feel like a huge challenge in the midst of our busy daily lives. But there are a number of good reasons why doing so could be beneficial, from building healthy habits to simply enjoying a social experience.
If you’re trying to get more exercise but find yourself struggling to do so, then take a close look at what’s holding you back and what might get you moving. For instance, if you’re a Judging personality type who usually has strong habits but can’t seem to make exercise stick, don’t be afraid to try out some new activities. Variety might help you sustain your interest. If you’re an Introvert who is repulsed by the thought of a crowded gym, try a solitary activity, preferably outdoors – like jogging, hiking, or (if you’re in northern climes) snowshoeing. Getting back to nature can be good for your body and your spirit. If your Turbulent self-esteem or perfectionism is limiting you, remember to take one step at a time. Health and fitness are about progress, not perfection!
Strict exercise regimens and regular schedules, while useful for some of us, aren’t necessarily the key to good fitness – we’re all different, and many of us thrive in more flexible environments. There is no arguing that regular exercise is important to our health, so as long as it’s happening, that’s what matters most.
What about you? Have you had more success with exercise when you follow a regular schedule or when you work out spontaneously? Share your experiences in the comments below.