What's Your Exercise Personality?

by Wendy Fries and Katrina Brown Hunt, WebMD Feature, Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD

To find the right exercise for you -- the one you enjoy and will stick with -- you need to find one that matches your personality.

We've come up with five teen exercise "personalities" to help you get started. Find one that looks like you, and then read the exercise suggestions we've matched for you. We've even given you ideas for finding the motivation to exercise. 


Exercise Personality No. 1: You Prefer Not to Sweat
You don't have to sweat to feel good about your body and how it moves.

Exercise Match: Choose an exercise that is based on stretching or slower movements -- such as yoga or tai chi. Use a video to help you get started. Walking could also be a choice exercise for you. Walking provides a terrific cardio workout even when you don't work up a sweat.

Your Best Motivation to Exercise: Start with small goals. Why? You can accomplish a small goal quickly, and that jump-starts your motivation. Plus, you probably won't sweat as much!

For instance, start with 10 minutes a day and build up to three 10-minute sessions. You could do one in the morning, one to break up your homework, and one before bed.

"Consider buying a new video every once a while to keep things fresh and give you choices," Laura Alderman, an exercise physiologist and behaviorist in Fargo, N.D. suggests. "Or buy a book that gives examples."

Exercise Personality No. 2: You're Bored by the Same Old Routine

Same old moves or routine put you to sleep? Terrific -- you're a perfect match for cross-training.

Exercise Match: "Maybe you give yourself a choice of two activities. So you can say, 'I'll choose this one for Tuesday and the other for Thursday,'" says Ronda Rose-Kayser, certified family life educator, with Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, S.D.

If you want to walk or run on your own, try buying or checking out some books on tape. (Think of the miles you could go as you listen to the wholeTwilight series!) Find yourself getting bored? Try your walking route in the reverse direction for a change of pace.

Your Best Motivation to Exercise: You might find that circuit training will really entice you to get up and move. All circuit training means is you do a series of different exercises in a single workout. For instance, you may ride an exercise bike for three minutes, then touch your toes 20 times, then do 20 crunches, then go to an elliptical for three minutes before you start the whole routine again.

Exercise Personality No. 3: You Like Your Activity to Be Intense

You're someone who likes to know it after you've exercised. You like to push yourself. Feel the burn. Get satisfaction from a few sore muscles or a bit of healthy competition.

Exercise Match: Sign up for a competition -- like a 5K walk or race -- right off the bat. Set weekly goals and then use a pedometer or a mobile app that tracks your walks or runs so you can chart your progress.

Just be careful to keep it real and gradual. "If you take on too much, you're more likely to fail or injure yourself," Alderman says. Ask a friend, a family member, or a coach or professional trainer if she thinks your goals are realistic.

Your Best Motivation to Exercise: Add a bit of a dare to your exercise to really ramp up your motivation. Try scaling a climbing wall or riding at a skateboard park. If you like water, try canoeing or kayaking. Remember to always have the right safety gear and to have an expert helping you out.

"Just be sure to do it in a supervised setting," says George Graham, a physical education consultant and the founder PECentral.org. Not only will you be safer and keep your parents happy -- you'll build more skills too.

Exercise Personality No. 4: You Feel Totally Uncoordinated

You might be a whiz at academics and learn new subjects easily. But when it comes to moving your body, you may not give yourself the chance to practice before you expect to be a star.

Exercise Match: Try a nontraditional sport that seems more like a game: ping-pong, croquet, badminton, Frisbee -- anything that gets you up and moving. And preferably something that encourages laughter too.

Check out classes at your community center or a local gym for ideas. Write down activities you want to try.

If you're just looking for a way to move, put on music and dance. It doesn't matter if you're uncoordinated; it only matters that you're moving and having fun.

Your Best Motivation to Exercise: If you have access to a gym, try weight lifting. On day one, a certified trainer or someone who is qualified can show you how to use a machine for weight training -- and typically these machines don't require a lot of coordination.

"Weight training gives you improved body composition, more strength, and probably an improved sense of well-being," says Steven Stovitz, MD, the team physician for the University of Minnesota athletic department.

Or you may find a more social activity motivating. In that case, start or join a club -- say, a Frisbee club at school. You'll learn to take the focus off yourself and just enjoy the experience of the game.

Exercise Personality No. 5: You Get Discouraged Easily

When you're trying to exercise more, it can be challenging to not expect too much too fast. It's especially hard if you tend to compare yourself to others. The key is to remember that everybody is different and has his or her own talents.

Exercise Match: You can pick any activity, just plan on starting slow and gradually working up to your goals.

Each time you exercise, focus on what you did, not on what you didn't do.

Picture yourself achieving your goals. "If it's running, imagine yourself running through a ribbon," Rose-Kayser says. "That helps you take it from 'I can't' to 'I will.'"

Your Best Motivation to Exercise: Compete against yourself. Focus on consistency first -- just move every day or most days. Do something that makes you feel good about your progress -- for example, placing stars on your calendar for each workout you complete. Write down how long you exercise and compare your progress month by month.

Also look for progress you may notice slowly over time, like how quickly you get tired or breathless, how good your body feels afterwards, and the energy you have to get your body moving.