Are you the kind of person who likes to keep a tight schedule of everything you do in a day, including snack breaks and coffee runs? Good news: Your precise approach to creating a routine is naturally aiding you in getting to the gym on a regular basis, per new research from teams at the University of Oregon. For those who are trying to start a new fitness routine, however, putting your plans on paper could help you find the motivation you didn't know you had.
In a study published in the journal Psychological Science this month, researchers studied a specific trait called "planfulness" and how it related to how often people actually worked out. Using data generated by 282 participants over the course of 20 weeks, scientists tracked how many times these people checked into a campus recreation center; then, they measured their planfulness through self-reported surveys that included statements around strict schedule– and plan-keeping. Participants were also asked to share their exercise plans with the researchers.
Those who scored higher-than-average planfulness points on the survey actually went to the gym significantly more than those who didn't fit into the "planner" profile. And the results didn't change on how much "planning" someone actually did—regardless if you use a paper binder or a phone's scheduling assistant, keeping any kind of schedule had the same effect. Simply choosing to plan your work out in advance may be the key to actually hitting the gym and sticking with it to create a new routine altogether.
"This work is broadly informative for those who are curious about how people pursue health goals, including their own patterns of thought around goals," Rita M. Ludwig, the study's lead researcher, said in a news release. "Clinicians might find it helpful in understanding how their patients tend to think about goals and whether person-to-person differences in such thinkings are related to outcomes."