July 22, 2019

Sedentary behavior has been known to be a risk factor for diseases of the body and mind. A study from the Journal of Research in Personality by Dr. Yannick Stephan and colleagues looked at the chronicity of the couch potato phenotype over time. They wanted to see whether these sedentary behaviors had any lasting effects on personality and other patterned behavior.

The original data sets were from two large studies, the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study and the Midlife in the United States Study that began in the 1990's.

"Nearly 20 years later a total of about 9,000 people took the same surveys again. Stephan and his team found that subjects who reported being less active had greater reductions on average in conscientiousness, openness, agreeableness and extroversion-four of the so-called Big Five personality traits-even after accounting for differences in baseline personality and health. No link was found with the fifth trait, neuroticism. The changes in traits were small, but the link with exercise was relatively strong. Physical activity predicted personality change better than disease burden did, for example." (Makin Article)

 

The big question is, which is the chicken and which is the egg? Is it that sedentary people are genetically less motivated and therefore less happy in general? Or, is it that their lack of movement has amplified their negativity by changing inherent physiology and brain activity?

 

Over the last 9 years of writing, I think the answer has been clearly shown to be that both genetics and movement play a large role in inherent happiness.

 

The bigger question is and always will be, how do we initiate change in a sedentary human and therefore foster happiness development? I find that with children, taking away the ubiquitous screens and letting them get bored is a great way to initiate movement. With adults, I have no clue!

 

 

Dr. M

Makin Scientific American Article
Stephan J of Research in Personality Article