Having This Personality Trait Can Determine How Often You Exercise, Study Finds

mbg Editorial Assistant By Jamie Schneider
mbg Editorial Assistant
Jamie Schneider is the Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen with a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan. She's previously written for Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.

Image by Marc Bordons / Stocksy

In our fast-paced society, it can sometimes be difficult to find the time to sit down and write out your goals and plans for the month. Even finding the time to write a simple to-do list for the day can feel trivial or unnecessary, especially if you don't consider yourself to be rather detail-oriented.

But if you're trying to find the motivation to stick to a new fitness routine, it may be time to rethink your personality—researchers at the University of Oregon found that making concrete plans to meet one's goals correlates to an increase in physical activity. Who knew the planner and the gym rat could have so much in common? 

How is this trait linked to how much we exercise? 

The scientists studied a specific trait, called "planfulness" in order to see how often people attended the gym. They analyzed the gym attendance of 282 participants (mostly university students) over a 20-week period. After tracking how many times these participants swiped into the campus recreation center, the researchers measured their planfulness through a 30-item Planfulness Scale that included self-reported statements such as, "Developing a clear plan when I have a goal is important to me." The participants also provided the scientists with a description of their exercise plans.

The result? People who rated themselves high on the planfulness scale went to the gym significantly more during this 20-week period than those who didn't consider themselves "planners."  

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What does this mean for our future goal-planning? 

Although it may seem obvious that actively planning our goals would hold us more accountable to fulfill them, it's interesting that the correlation between planning and goal pursuit is so strong for health goals in particular.  

"This work is broadly informative for those who are curious about how people pursue health goals, including their own patterns of thought around goals," lead researcher of the study Rita M. Ludwig states in a news release. "Clinicians might find it helpful in understanding how their patients tend to think about goals and whether person-to-person differences in such thinking are related to outcomes." 

What's also interesting to note is that we don't even have to be that specific when planning our goals, as the study found that the amount of description in the participants' exercise plans had no effect on their goal pursuits. It seems as if when it comes to creating realistic goals, just the planning alone will help keep you accountable. 

"It seems logical that people who are successful with their goals would be able to write in detail about their planning process. We were surprised, then, to find no relationship between people's goal pursuit behavior and how they wrote about their goals," Ludwig adds. 

So, if you're trying to stick to a certain health and fitness regimen, science shows that being a "planner" is important in helping you stick to it. If you identify with the ever-ambitious Type A personality, feel free to rejoice with this news (and maybe hit the gym, if you've planned for it). And if you'd consider yourself more spontaneous, consider this science the motivation you need to start utilizing that calendar app—even the most free-spirited of souls wants a healthy exercise regimen, right? 

Ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.

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