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Don't Want To Work Out? This Study May Explain Why You Struggle To Get Motivated

Eliza Sullivan
September 1, 2020
Eliza Sullivan
mbg Nutrition & Health Writer
By Eliza Sullivan
mbg Nutrition & Health Writer
Eliza Sullivan is a food writer and SEO editor at mindbodygreen. She writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She studied journalism at Boston University.
Woman after working out
Image by Javier Díez / Stocksy
September 1, 2020

We turn to varying definitions of personality type for everything from help with our love lives to what we should make for dinner—so why wouldn't we expect it to influence our penchant for, or against, movement? According to a new study, specific personality traits may be a reason you struggle with finding the motivation to work out.

How personality may affect activity levels.

Using data from a set of larger studies, researchers found that for women, personality can influence how active you are, along with how active you perceive yourself to be—and the two don't always align. They specifically mention two personality traits: extroversion and neuroticism.

Using data from 314 men and women ages 70 to 85 years, and from 1,098 people ages 47 to 55 years, they found that women who had higher extroversion scores often self-reported more exercise than their activity monitor actually recorded.

The discrepancy can be accounted for, according to the researchers: "Activity monitors are better at capturing all daily stepping activities," explained Tiia Kekäläinen, a postgraduate researcher who worked on the report, "whereas self-reporting better accounts for all types of physical activities. Therefore, it is natural that results are partly different between different physical activity measures."

Overall, however, those extroverted women were more active than women who scored higher for neuroticism. The women in the latter subgroup were less active by their own reporting and also based on their activity tracker data.

"Neuroticism describes a predisposition to experience negative feelings," Kekäläinen said. "In addition to lower willingness to participate in physical activities, this kind of tendency seems to be related to underreporting physical activity behavior."

What can you do?

Just because you may not be predisposed to loving your morning (or midday, or evening) workout due to a certain personality trait doesn't mean you should throw in the towel.

For those who are more neurotic, working out may actually help break through negative feelings. Working out can boost those feel-good hormones. One workout in particular that's been shown to boost mood? Hiking. If you're not able to get to a hiking trail, a long (or longish) walk in a wooded park is a good option too.

Still struggling with that motivation? Consider starting with a quicker workout for a jump-start, like this five-minute full-body workout. And for those who are decidedly not extroverted, try these introvert-friendly workouts.

Eliza Sullivan author page.
Eliza Sullivan
mbg Nutrition & Health Writer

Eliza Sullivan is an SEO Editor at mindbodygreen, where she writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She received a B.S. in journalism and B.A. in english literature with honors from Boston University, and she has previously written for Boston Magazine,, and SUITCASE magazine.