It turns out your walk reveals a lot about your personality without you even realizing it. A new study links a faster pace to higher levels of extraversion, conscientiousness, and openness, and lower levels of neuroticism.
A team of researchers in France and America wanted to find out how personality affects our gait as we age. As they explain in the study, walking speed is a marker of health in adulthood. A slower pace is linked to poorer mental and physical health, impaired cognition, and a higher risk of death. They also say that higher neuroticism and lower levels of extraversion, openness, and conscientiousness are associated with self-reported physical decline.
To see if there was a connection, they compared the walking speed and characteristics of middle-aged and older adults. Personality was assessed by survey and each participant was rated on the Big Five personality traits (extraversion, conscientiousness, openness, agreeableness, and neuroticism). Walking speed was based on their usual pace.
Not only did they discover that personality affects walking speed, they found it can affect how our walk changes over time. The results suggest that people who scored high on extraversion, conscientiousness, and openness, and low on neuroticism walked faster on average and declined less in speed as they aged. Agreeableness, however, didn’t seem to have any effect whatsoever.
Conscientiousness and extraversion had more of a positive influence than openness. With all other demographic and personality considerations accounted for, people high on extraversion walked an average of 0.06 meters per second faster than their introvert friends.
The researchers point out that more extroverted, conscientious individuals may be more likely to be physically active and, therefore, less likely to suffer from physical and mental health conditions. A previous study has linked extraversion, conscientiousness, openness, and low levels of neuroticism with more physical activity and less sedentary behavior. Higher neuroticism and lower conscientiousness, on the other hand, were associated with the opposite.
It’s an interesting connection, but at this stage more research is needed to explain why exactly this is the case. Is it purely down to personality and our behavior? Or is there some biological or neurological aspect to it?
In any case, if you want to want to make a quick assessment of someone’s personality, check out their stride.