Study: Make Clear Life Goals & You’ll Make Gym Gains
People who make solid plans to actually meet their goals engage in more physical activity and benefit more from the gym when compared to those who don’t plan adequately new research shows.
These research findings state that self-reported levels of a trait called ‘planfulness’ translates into real-world differences in behavior.
Conscientiousness, a measure of individuals’ orderliness and dependability on the Big Five Inventory of personality, has long been tied with healthy behaviors, yet the researchers narrowed their focus to a single facet of this trait (planfulness) that allows researchers to zero in on the key psychological processes involved in achieving goals.
The key traits were mental flexibility and a person’s ability to make short-term sacrifices in pursuit of future success.
“There indeed appears to be a certain way of thinking about goals that correlates with long-term progress,” Lead researcher Rita M. Ludwig said.
She added: “What’s new in this study is that we used an objective measure of goal progress that could be recorded as participants naturally went about their lives: their check-ins at a local gym.”
Ludwig and colleagues examined this relationship by analyzing the gym attendance of 282 participants over a 20-week period.
The participants provided a written description of their exercise plans and completed measures of self-control and grit, in addition to the Big Five Inventory of personality and Ludwig and colleagues’ 30-item Planfulness Scale.
While all participants experienced a similar decline in gym attendance over the course of a semester, individuals who rated themselves high on planfulness items such as “developing a clear plan when I have a goal is important to me” went to the gym more throughout two semesters compared to those who ranked themselves lower on planfulness.
“This work is broadly informative for those who are curious about how people pursue health goals, including their own patterns of thought around goals,” Ludwig says.
“Clinicians might find it helpful in understanding how their patients tend to think about goals and whether person-to-person differences in such thinking are related to outcomes.”
While there was a small, but significant relationship between participant planfulness and the level of detail in their physical activity plans, descriptiveness was unexpectedly found to have no relationship with gym attendance, Ludwig and colleagues noted.