Why do some people stick to their fitness goals?

DN Bureau

Personality traits are a key indicator in determining how likely is it that a person will stick to their exercise goals, a study revealed.

Representational image
Representational image

Washington DC: Personality traits are a key indicator in determining how likely is it that a person will stick to their exercise goals, a study revealed.

A new study uncovered a personality trait that may predict your likeliness of engaging in a physical task. It stated that individuals who make concrete plans to meet their goals are likely to engage in more physical activity, including gymming, as compared to those who don’t.

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The findings of this study published in the Journal Psychological Science suggest that self-reported levels of a trait called ‘planfulness’ may translate into real-world differences in behaviour.

Some people seem to be able to more consistently meet their goals than others, but it remains unclear if personality traits that have been found to promote goal achievement in the lab similarly encourage individuals to achieve long-term goals in their day-to-day lives, said lead researcher Rita M. Ludwig of the University of Oregon.

Conscientiousness, a measure of individuals’ orderliness and dependability on the Big Five Inventory of personality, has long been tied with healthy behaviours.

Narrowing their focus to a single facet of this trait, planfulness, allows researchers to zero in on the psychological processes--such as mental flexibility, and a person’s ability to make short-term sacrifices in pursuit of future success--that contribute directly to achieving long-term goals.

“What’s new in this study is that we used an objective measure of goal progress that could be recorded as participants naturally went about their lives: their check-ins at a local gym,” Ludwig explained.

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Researchers examined this relationship by analysing the gym attendance of 282 participants over a 20-week period.

They tracked the number of times each participant swiped into the campus recreation centre after enrolling in the study at the start of the winter 2018 academic semester.

They also retroactively collected data on gym attendance throughout the fall 2017 term.

The participants, many of whom were students, provided a written description of their exercise plans and completed measures of self-control and grit, in addition to the Big Five Inventory of personality and researchers’ 30-item Planfulness Scale.

While all participants experienced a similar decline in gym attendance over the course of each semester, individuals who rated themselves high on planfulness items such as “developing a clear plan when I have a goal is important to me” went to the gym more throughout both semesters.

Researchers found that a one-point increase on the five-point Planfulness Scale corresponded with an additional 5.9 recreation centre visits during the fall semester, and an additional 8.5 visits after enrolling in the study for the winter semester.

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Planfulness was only significantly associated with the frequency of participants’ gym attendance during the winter semester, possibly due to participants completing their physical activity plan later in the year, the researchers noted.

“This work is broadly informative for those who are curious about how people pursue health goals, including their own patterns of thought around goals,” Ludwig suggested.

“It seems logical that people who are successful with their goals would be able to write in detail about their planning process,” Ludwig added. (ANI)

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