We loved Jennifer O’Connell’s humorous New Year’s piece in the Irish Times Magazine on FitBit Relationships: the journey over time from enthusiastic fanatic to frustrated underachiever, with constant performance reminders to cheer or intimidate. She concludes that even though her relationship with it has soured a bit, she can’t quite give it up……new research suggests that is a good thing, as exercise has implications for our personality development over time…who would have thought!
You’ve heard the term “sitting is the new smoking”…..The World Health Organisation describes physical inactivity as a “global public health problem” that contributes to millions of deaths each year, but recent research finds that physical inactivity is also associated with unwelcome change in personality over time.
Whilst the connection between physical activity and the development of our personal traits might not be obvious, when you think about how stress impacts on our bodies and behaviour, it is easier to make the connection. New research published in 2018, combines data from three long-running surveys, where 8,500 participants completed a personality questionnaire and answered questions about their physical activity levels at a specific period in time and again twenty years later. The findings show that greater physical inactivity at baseline was associated with sharper declines in conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and openness.
Another part of the reason that lower physical activity may have such long-term links with personality may be due to knock-on consequences of inactivity for our physical capabilities, which will impact the kind of lives we are able to lead. Being less active may also contribute to us becoming less self-disciplined, less curious and adventurous. We will have fewer opportunities for socialising and also miss the mood-enhancing effects of exercise, a detriment that may accumulate over time and potentially contribute to our lower agreeability.
We already know that being more active is good for our health, this new paper brings home that it’s probably good for our personalities too. Even a moderate increase in your activity levels today could have positive implications for your personality decades from now. Something to ponder when you feel like ignoring the wonderful nagging Fitbit and perhaps something to discuss with your Coach.Reference: Christian Jarrett, British Psychological Society Research Digest