Need an Excuse Not to Work Out Today? Blame It on Your Personality

Certain personality types are indeed ill-equipped for athleticism.

A new study found certain exercise regimes are best suited to different personality types. Vladislav Muslakov

An all-too-convenient study from the British Psychological Society (BPS) has declared that an individual’s capacity for physical exercise may be dependent on their personality type, paving the way for a whole lot of excuses when it comes time to hit the gym after work.

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Presented at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference of the Division of Occupational Psychology by licensed psychologist John Hackston, the research argues that certain exercise regimes are best suited for different personality types, and certain personality types are more ill-equipped for athleticism than others. “We were keen to investigate how organizations could help their staff’s development through exercise, finding that matching an individual’s personality type to a particular type of exercise can increase both the effectiveness and the person’s enjoyment of it,” said Hackston.

For the study, 794 subjects completed a survey to determine their MBTI  (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) personality type, and outlined their exercise preferences. A popular method of categorizing personality within the scientific community, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator outlines 16 distinct personality types based on preferences regarding how people prefer to register information, make decisions, perceive others, among other traits.

Among the most interesting takeaways from the study’s findings is the fact that extroverts prefer to work out at the gym, rather than in private, not only so that they can develop new relationships, but also so they can show off their physical achievements to others. Introverts are indifferent to the location in which they exercise, as long as they don’t have to interact with many people.

This may explain the contradictory atmosphere of many gyms; exercise classes motivate many gym-goers by fostering competition and camaraderie, while many other exercisers enjoy solo workouts just outside the studio, their headphones plugged-in to help them avoid human contact at all costs. According to the research, introverts don’t need to share their exercise achievements with others in order to feel validated.

If you’ve never really gotten the hype over trendy indoor cycling classes like Flywheel or SoulCycle, or couldn’t jump on the bandwagon of popular treadmill interval training classes like OrangeTheory and Barry’s Bootcamp, it might be because your MBTI personality type includes preferences for Intuition or Perceiving; these personality types dislike taking the same route, and need to be stimulated by new environments while they exercise.

Have a favorite personal trainer or yoga teacher you keep going back to? People whose MBTI personality types specify a preference for Feeling are more likely to be motivated if they have a personal connection to their instructor or exercise buddies. People with a preference for Thinking, however, are more likely to be drawn to gyms and classes boasting the highest-qualified instructors because they place a higher value on information rather than emotion.

If you’re having trouble dragging yourself to the gym, it may be because you’re doing the wrong exercise for your personality type. “The most important piece of advice to come out of this research,” said Hackston, “is that there is not one type of exercise that is suited to everyone. There can be pressure to follow the crowd to the gym or sign up to the latest exercise fad, but it would be much more effective for them to match their personality type to an exercise plan that is more likely to last the test of time.”

Need an Excuse Not to Work Out Today? Blame It on Your Personality