Exercise makes people more extraverted and agreeable, recent research finds.
These are just two of the positive changes that modest amounts of exercise can have on personality.
Exercise also increases people’s conscientiousness and makes them more open to experience.
A few of the benefits of these personality changes include:
- More extraverted people tend to have more positive emotions,
- greater conscientiousness can lead to more success in life,
- and being open to experience is linked to intelligence and creativity.
In contrast, those who remain sedentary tend to see the opposite pattern of changes to their personality.
These include reduced agreeableness, being more closed to experience and less conscientious.
The conclusions come from a study of over six thousand people who were followed for more than twenty years.
They each completed surveys that asked them about their personalities and levels of exercise.
The results showed that only relatively small amounts of exercise were linked to positive changes in personality over the years.
The study’s authors write:
“A physically inactive lifestyle has a range of long-term
biological, health and cognitive outcomes, such as higher risk of frailty, worse mental and physical health and declines in
memory and executive functions.
Such outcomes, in turn, may have a long-term impact on personality, such as reductions in the tendency to be self-disciplined and organized or to be exploratory and curious.
Indeed, cognitive decline, greater frailty, and more
depressive symptoms and disease burden have been associated with reduced conscientiousness and openness over time.”
Focusing on how habits are initiated is key to getting regular exercise, studies have found.
It’s all about making sure there are regular cues which prompt you to automatically exercise.
To create good exercise habits, you should focus on what starts you exercising, not what type of exercise you do.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of Research in Personality (Stephan et al., 2018).