Washington: Why is it that some individuals stick to their fitness goals while others do not?
A new study has uncovered a personality trait which may predict your likeliness of engaging in a physical task. 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.
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 behavior.
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.
Researchers examined this relationship by analyzing the gym attendance of 282 participants over a 20-week period.
They tracked the number of times each participant swiped into the campus recreation center 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 center visits during the fall semester, and an additional 8.5 visits after enrolling in the study for the winter semester.