Adopting a more active lifestyle today could have benefits for your personality decades from now

Posted on February 27, 2018

The researchers combined data from three long-running survey studies. Two involved over 6000 participants in Wisconsin, first recruited between 1992 and 1994, aged 53 on average, when they completed a personality questionnaire and answered questions about their physical activity levels and repeated the process in 2011. The other study was US-wide and involved over 2500 participants who first took part between 1995 to 1996, aged 46, on average, underwent the same process in 2013-2014. All the studies also recorded extensive information about the participants’ health and any illnesses or psychological problems.

It was discovered that greater physical inactivity at baseline was associated with sharper declines in conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and openness, as measured two decades later. This was even after factoring out baseline personality and any differences in health. These were generally consistent across different intensities of physical activity (the researchers were able to look separately at light physical activity, such as gardening; moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking; and vigorous activity, such as running or lifting weights).

On the other hand, for extraversion and agreeableness, there was a suggestion that a lack of moderate physical activity might be especially relevant in terms of later declines in these traits. Unknown to many, there is a close association between personality and our basic physiology, including our responsiveness to stress. The relation 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. Fewer opportunities for socialising and the mood-enhancing effects of are detriments that may accumulate over time and potentially contribute to our lower agreeability.

The health benefits of an active lifestyle are common knowledge, but this paper brings it a step further encouraging more active lifestyles given the averse consequences on our personality in future.

Category(s):Personality problems

Source material from Research Digest

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