Thursday, November 7, 2019

Associations of "positive" temperament and personality traits with frequency of physical activity in adulthood: The nicer they were, the more they exercised

Associations of temperament and personality traits with frequency of physical activity in adulthood. Jenni Karvonen et al. Journal of Research in Personality, November 7 2019, 103887.

•    Both temperament and personality traits are associated with adult physical activity.
•    Different traits are related to physical activity engagement among women and men.
•    Temperament and personality traits relate to rambling in nature and watching sports.
•    Combinations of temperament and personality characteristics need further research.

Abstract: Temperament and physical activity (PA) have been examined in children and adolescents, but little is known about these associations in adulthood. Personality traits, however, are known to contribute to PA in adults. This study, which examined both temperament and personality characteristics at age 42 in relation to frequency of PA at age 50 (JYLS, n = 214-261), also found associations with temperament traits. Positive associations were found between Orienting sensitivity and overall PA and between Extraversion and vigorous PA among women and between low Negative affectivity and overall and vigorous PA among men. Furthermore, Orienting sensitivity and Agreeableness were associated with vigorous PA among men. Temperament and personality characteristics also showed gender-specific associations with rambling in nature and watching sports.

3.4 Discussion
The present study investigated the associations of temperament and personality characteristics,
assessed at age 42, with frequency of engagement in physical activity, assessed at age 50,
among Finnish women and men. Our main findings for the temperament traits were as follows:
(1) Orienting sensitivity showed a positive association with overall physical activity
engagement among women, and with vigorous physical activity engagement and an increased
likelihood of frequent rambling in nature among men. As expected, (2) Negative affectivity
was found to be negatively associated with both overall as well as vigorous physical activity
engagement, but only among men, meaning that men who scored lower in Negative affectivity
were more likely to engage in both overall and vigorous physical activity. In support of this,
men who scored high in Negative affectivity were more likely to watch sports frequently,
which, in this study, was seen to reflect physical inactivity. However, alternative
interpretations, such as the view that watching sports reflects an interest in other people’s
physical activity, are possible, and thus our results suggest that Negative affectivity is
associated with higher physical inactivity but also with interest in sports. Lastly, (3) Surgency
was negatively associated with rambling in nature among women.

Due to the novelty of the present observations for adult temperament, we can only speculate as
to their reasons. It is possible that awareness of extraneous low intensity stimulation, which
characterizes individuals who score high in Orienting sensitivity (Evans & Rothbart, 2007),
leads these individuals to experience physical activity-related physical responses as particularly
pleasant or satisfying, which in turn encourages them to exercise more frequently. Similarly,
the positive association observed here between Orienting sensitivity and rambling in nature
among men may stem from their conscious awareness of their surroundings and its visual
features. Evans and Rothbart (2007) characterize individuals with high levels of Surgency as
needing high levels of strength, complexity or novelty of arousal. This may help to explain
why, among the present women, those with high Surgency scores showed reduced willingness
to ramble in nature, as this type of physical activity does not provide them with adequate
stimuli. Our observation of the negative association between Negative affectivity and overall
and vigorous engagement in physical activity is in line with our study hypothesis. However, as
sports can be watched either individually or in the company of a larger group of people, we are
unable to provide confirmation for our hypothesis that Negative affectivity is positively
associated with, in particular, individually performed exercise types. Some explanation for the
negative association between Negative affectivity and physical activity engagement may be
gained from the general characterization of individuals who score high in Negative affectivity:
these individuals are prone to negative emotional states, such as anxiousness and selfconsciousness
(Watson & Clark, 1984), which, understandably, may decrease, restrict or
altogether erode their willingness to participate in situations involving physical activity, as
could have been the case among the present sample of men. As our results on adult
temperament and physical activity are first of their kind, additional research to confirm them
is clearly needed.

Our results on regards personality traits support earlier findings (Allen & Vella, 2015;
Courneya & Hellsten, 1998; Hagan & Hausenblas, 2005) in that high scores in Extraversion
were positively associated with engagement in vigorous physical activity, and that individuals
with higher levels of Openness were more likely to engage in outdoor exercise. Our results did
not provide confirmation for the previously found positive association between Agreeableness
and recreational exercise (Courneya & Hellsten, 1998). Interestingly, we also found
Extraversion to have a positive association with watching sports. Individuals scoring high in
Extraversion have been characterized by gregariousness and a need for intense sensory stimuli
(Costa & McCrae, 1992b; McCrae & John, 1992), needs which, as argued by Wilson and
Dishman (2015), may be met by physical activity. This is not to say that the same needs could
not also be satisfied by more sedentary activities, like watching a football game with friends.
It is probable, therefore, that the present observation between Extraversion and watching sports
relates to the social rather than the sedentary aspect of watching sports. It may also be that
different lower-order facets within the Extraversion trait relate differently to different types of
exercise. According to Artese, Ehley, Sutin and Terracciano (2017), the Activity facet
especially is associated with more frequent engagement in physical activity and less sedentary
time when measured via an accelerometer. The same phenomenon has been noted by Vo and
Bogg (2015) for self-reported physical activity. However, more extensive research on the
lower-order facets of personality traits in relation to physical activity is called for.

Our finding on the positive association between Agreeableness and vigorous physical activity,
despite its being surprising and in contradiction to previous findings (Aşçı et al., 2015; Sutin
et al., 2016; Wilson & Dishman, 2015), is supported by Artese et al. (2017), who reported
Agreeableness to be positively associated with moderate-vigorous physical activity and step
counts. Our results suggest that Agreeableness might be a significant factor in physical activity,
particularly among men. In the same JYLS data, Hietalahti, Rantanen and Kokko (2016) found
Agreeableness to be positively correlated with leisure and physical fitness goals among men.
Our results may, therefore, also be coincidental and reflective only of the present study
population. However, considering that most of the previous studies on personality traits and
physical activity have not taken gender differences into account, our results are hypothesisgenerating
and merit replication in a larger sample.

Our analyses on trait combinations shed light on both the relationship between adult
temperament and personality traits and their simultaneous association with physical activity.
Our results suggest that the women in the present study sample may be seeking something other
than high intensity or strong stimulus from their physical activity. The present results also
imply that these women may be looking for novel experiences when engaging in physical
activity and that men with high levels of negative emotionality are at especial risk for being
physically inactive. On the other hand, our results indicate that self-regulative processes are
related to the ability of men to follow up on high intensity training and perhaps to inhibit the
urge to cease exercise despite the unpleasant sensations possibly induced by intense physical
stimulation. Although generally described by attributes such as altruism, ingenuousness and
kindness (McCrae & John, 1992b), our observation on the association of the trait combination
of Effortful control and Agreeableness with vigorous physical activity engagement may in fact
support the findings of Jensen-Campbell et al. (2002), who suggested that Agreeableness has a
developmental basis in inhibition and self-control rather than social conformity. As our
analyses on individual traits and trait combinations also produced slightly different results,
more emphasis on examining the inter-relationships between temperament and personality
characteristics is needed. Similarly, while the trait combinations presented here gained
theoretical support from existing correlational evidence between temperament and personality
characteristics (Evans & Rothbart, 2007; Pulkkinen et al., 2012; Wiltink et al., 2006), the novel
analytic approach used merits further research.

The present findings add to the extensive line of personality research already conducted on the
JYLS study population, unique in its representativeness and length of follow-up. Previous
studies on the same data have linked personality traits to various meaningful aspects of adult
life, including parenting (Metsäpelto & Pulkkinen, 2003; Rantanen, Tillemann, Metsäpelto,
Kokko, & Pulkkinen, 2015), working life (Viinikainen, Kokko, Pulkkinen, & Pehkonen, 2010;
Viinikainen & Kokko, 2012) and well-being (e.g. Kokko et al., 2013; Mäkikangas et al., 2015).
Our findings extend this knowledge by indicating yet another domain of these individuals’
daily lives, habitual physical activity, to which individual differences in both temperament and
personality traits contribute. Following Kinnunen et al. (2012), our findings also point to the
utility of assessing larger groups of (temperament and) personality characteristics instead of
focusing on individual traits alone.

No comments:

Post a Comment