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Traits and Exercise

What trait predicts exercise consistency? A recent study published in Psychological Science found that individuals who make concrete plans to meet their goals engaged in more physical activity and attended the gym more consistently. The researcher identified "planfulness" as a characteristic that determined a person's ability to engage in healthy behaviors like exercise. Incidentally, my dissertation done many years ago looked at similar issues. My hypothesis was that people (both college students and older adults) would improve significantly in their physiological and psychological measures after exercise if they had goals and measurable trackers, which I found was true. That's why fit bits and other tracking devices are so popular and help people increase their fitness levels. We like to see the progress we've made which provides a reward system and can be a motivator to continue pursuing our goals. Some people track their weight, the distance or speed running, the weight lifted, and/or steps walked, etc. But why are some people more goal-oriented than others?

Some people stumble onto this concept while others identify it early on in life. Sometimes we learn to be goal-driven from observing our family, mentors, peers, or coaches modeling these behaviors. There may also be a genetic component to our personality make-up and pre-determined to be goal-oriented. Or maybe once we have a taste of the rewards and benefits of setting and achieving goals we decide this works for us. Of course our success rate when we establish goals also plays a role in solidifying this mindset. If we never seem to attain our goal even when we set a plan and follow a program, we may be less inclined to focus on goals in the future. Therefore, it is important to establish realistic goals and expectations and be able to adjust our plan to increase the likelihood of success. In fact resiliency and perseverance are incredibly important characteristics in determining success. Ultimately, having something that you're working towards can increase the likelihood of completion and success.

My wife and I have made annual goals for the past 25 years, both individually and as a couple which have been very helpful and effective. Some we have achieved, others not but just the process leads to interesting conversation between us. I encourage you to start by figuring out what the realistic goals and objectives are related to some area of your life like exercise, better nutrition, increasing your social circle or planning for retirement. For many of us writing the goals and plan down or recording them in our device can be beneficial. Some of us are visual people and would like to see our progress in a graph or some other visual aid. We may also set up some type of reward system for achieving steps toward our goal and also include an accountability person in the mix to discuss progress. Planning for the future and setting parameters related to health, finances, career, and relationships can prove to be productive conversations. Of course our plans don't always follow the path we lay out, but making a course correction is easier than meandering aimlessly without direction. Consider writing some goals for yourself and a plan to achieve those goals. Your goals and plan will give you insight into what's important to you in life.

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