Before starting a new fitness program or exercise, men and women would do well to determine which activity best suits their personality, according to a Canadian researcher.
“It’s important for people, especially those new to exercise, to consider what they’re getting into,” Dr. James Gavin of Concordia University in Quebec told Reuters Health. “Does it fit with who the person is? Will it challenge long-standing habits?” Ignoring such considerations could lead to a lack of adherence to the regimen, he pointed out.
Gavin’s article in the December issue of the journal The Physician and Sportsmedicine urges doctors to encourage their patients to complete a personality assessment questionnaire that can help them find the fitness activity that suits them best.
Currently, only about one in five North American adults participate in some type of exercise, a rate that has remained steady over the past few decades, studies show. Matching specific activities to individuals’ traits and personalities may be key to increasing those physical activity levels, Gavin’s report states.
An analysis of studies about personality in sports reveals seven different dimensions that should be taken into consideration, according to the report. Potential exercisers should consider whether they prefer exercising alone or in a group; the degree of control or spontaneity included; their motivation for exercising; the aggression level required for the exercise; the competitive nature of the activity; the mental focus required; and whether it involves taking risks.
Thrillseekers may prefer to participate in high-risk sports; a person who is highly social may prefer a team sport; and one who likes spontaneity might wish to avoid a highly structured fitness class.
“You might think of it this way: people have personalities…and so do sports and fitness activities,” Gavin said. “People generally feel better when they do activities within their comfort zones, i.e., that match their styles.”
Findings from a study of nearly 700 members of a community fitness center show that those who expressed a high interest in karate, with little or no interest in aerobic dance, yoga or running, scored highest in aggressiveness, competitiveness, risk taking, and spontaneity out of the seven dimensions. Those with a high interest in yoga scored highest in mental focus, whereas those most interested in aerobic dance were the most sociable.
To determine which activities best suit their personality, individuals can complete personality profiles and use their physician’s fitness personality chart to see where a sport fits along a continuum, from the low end of a psychosocial style to the high end, the report states.
“The overarching goal of this process is to promote activity participation, especially for sedentary patients,” according to Gavin. “It is critically important that patients understand likes and dislikes and behavioral tendencies (aka personality) when considering which kinds of fitness classes to take or which sports to pursue.”
SOURCE: The Physician and Sportsmedicine, December 2004.
Revision date: July 7, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD