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Your Genes Could Make You Want To Exercise

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
6/1/2010 8:12 AM   :  83 comments   :  13,254 Views

See More: news, motivation,
I have a friend who loves to scrapbook. She meets a group once a week to scrapbook and is always asking me to come along. She talks about how fun it is to work on a project and socialize with your friends at the same time. While I appreciate the invite, scrapbooking is not my thing. I've tried to explain to her that although that activity is enjoyable for her, it would be very stressful for me. I'm not a crafty person, I'm not very creative, and so it's not my idea of a good time.

Running is my scrapbooking, which my friend does not understand. I don't run to lose weight or keep my weight in check (although it is a nice extra benefit.) I run because I love the challenge- it helps relieve stress, makes me feel good and I just can't imagine my life without it. Being active and exercising regularly is just like brushing my teeth. It's something I have to do and I want to do. Growing up I was involved in sports, but that was only because my parents made me participate and not because I was good at it. My dad was always active, but my mom was not. So it's not like my desire to exercise comes from a lifetime of example. Could it be in my genes? Research set out to determine whether our desire to exercise is genetically determined.

The study, published in 2006 by the Library of Science, looked at thousands of sets of twins. According to previous research, identical twins share 100 percent of their genome, and fraternal twins share 50 percent. All twin pairs, if raised together, share approximately the same early environment. So if a behavior is more common between identical twins than between fraternal twins, it is presumably being directed to some degree by genes." Scientists looked at the decision of whether or not to exercise, and found that identical-twin pairs were more likely than the fraternal-twin pairs to share the same activity pattern.

Researchers concluded that differences in exercise behavior were about 60 percent attributable to genes. More recent research also supports this idea. A 2009 study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise "found that people who were active (but not necessarily athletic) tended to have similar variations of several different genes." The scientists who study this say that one day the findings could be used to design exercise programs that are more specific to people's needs. For instance, if your genes predispose you to being sorer after a specific activity, you might be encouraged to try something else that will give you less discomfort.

What do you think? Do you think that there's more to your desire to exercise than just experience and motivation? Could your genes play an important part?


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Comments

  • 83
    Hmm that's a stretch. I hated PE, I hated team sports, I couldn't hear what was going on. Maybe if communication hadn't been such a huge issue, it would have been different. But, I tended to like the individual sports like walking, yoga, pilates - I just don't want to do them where anyone in my family can see me. I always felt shamed and foolish when I attempted exercise in my family as a kid. My dad was always trying to get us to exercise and my mom never would (wasn't something that "Southern Ladies" did back in her day...). So I imagine if there is a gene of desire, it has been squelched over the years by other emotional baggage and I just need to work my way back to it. - 6/3/2011   1:00:00 AM
  • 82
    Very interesting....something for my brain to chew on for awhile. - 6/30/2010   5:28:39 PM
  • 81
    Reading this post was an exercise in frustration. I kept looking for *some* detail about the study, but almost every sentence pertaining to the study is phrased in what I would call CYA words. So I clicked the link, expecting to be taken to the study itself, instead of which, I found a slightly more detailed article from the New York Times. And even there, NO link to the study.

    Did some digging - here's the link: http://www.plosone.org/article/info
    %3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.000
    0022


    If you read the study itself (even just skim the "Results" section), you'll see that there were some interesting conclusions - for example, that perhaps the "genetic influence" is the result of maybe losing weight easier as a result of exercise among some pairs of twins making them more likely to exercise; or that some twins had more genetic capacity towards strength or cardio-vascular endurance (all traits governed by our genes). Interestingly, in the UK, ALL the analysis was done ONLY on female twins. And there is some indication, especially in the Netherlands' male twins, that early childhood environment also plays a role in the preference towards exercise.

    As usual, "it's not THAT simple, folks" - and it really doesn't matter what our genes dictate, it is still our CHOICES on a daily basis that make the ultimate decision as to whether or not we exercise.

    -Maya - 6/6/2010   7:35:04 AM
  • INNERBEWTY
    80
    My mom lived in a small town and walked to and from work everyday before she had me. I myself enjoy walking :) not sure if this is related. - 6/4/2010   2:06:58 PM
  • 79
    I do believe genes play a very small role in many things, but also I think the socio-economic environment plays a bigger role in how people behave even in exercise. I believe the desire and motivation to exercise can be learned with the right mentors motivators internal and external. - 6/4/2010   10:54:41 AM
  • 78
    I think some body types are better matched to certain types of activities, but I don't really buy that there is a "loves to exercise" gene. I loved to play basketball, run and jump hurdles when I was in high school. My parents didn't encourage those activities, so I let them go. If that exercise gene was for real, wouldn't it make sense that I would, in my middle age (okay, maybe upper age), would want to shoot hoops, run, and jump hurdles? NOT. I'll dance the night away. I'll go for long brisk walks. But running sounds like about the LEAST fun thing I can think to do. - 6/3/2010   1:40:07 PM
  • 77
    All the runners and joggers I see in the morning are lean and seem to be small-boned. The walkers (like me) are all body types, so maybe genes do have something to do with it. No matter how much I work out, there's no way I'll ever look like those runners! - 6/3/2010   11:08:12 AM
  • 76
    THANKS FOR YOUR BLOG. I USED TO LOVE TO WORK OUT -I LOVE THE FEELING I CAN'T SEEM TO OVERCOME AND START AGAIN. AT ONE TIME I WAS ABLE TO EXCERSE REGULARY FOR ELEVEN YEARS. MAYBE YOUR BLOG WILL GIVE ME THE SPARK I NEED. JAZZEY7777 - 6/3/2010   11:03:52 AM
  • JUHOEG
    75
    Don't know about this. - 6/3/2010   10:28:58 AM
  • 74
    What do you think? Do you think that there's more to your desire to exercise than just experience and motivation? Could your genes play an important part?

    Obviously gentics plays a huge part in our body types but don't see that as being apart of our motivation to exercise. Yes, parents play a huge roll in on exercising but it comes down to us. I just recently have come to love running. I dreaded it when I played sports and never was on the track team due to my disgust of running. Now, I am far from being a good athlete but I enjoyed playing and being apart of a team. My weight has gotten to what it is now due to my lack of motivation. Unless my genes have all of a sudden have changed it was my mindset to become self motivated to exercise and loose this weight.
    - 6/3/2010   9:35:23 AM
  • 73
    No I don't think it is Gene related at all whatsoever. I don't think there is more to my desire or motivation ( sometimes i need motivation).
    i was not active as much when i was a child, but now i am going to the gym
    whenever my husband does not need to drive in to work by himself.
    I am taking Taekwondo there as well, i think it is more motivation
    and experience( no Genes involved). - 6/3/2010   8:40:32 AM
  • DENI_ZEN
    72
    As with most things weight-related, it seems to be in my jeans more than my genes. The exercise gene skipped my generation, as luck (wouldn't) have it :( - 6/3/2010   7:49:40 AM
  • 71
    I love Norahmae's comment......a new mantra ! - 6/3/2010   5:10:04 AM
  • 70
    I love Norahmae's comment......a new mantra ! - 6/3/2010   5:10:04 AM
  • 69
    l've had both sets of twins, fraternal boy and girl now 17 yrs and 10 yr old identical twin girls. l do agree fraternal are so different in so many ways, but are always there for each other. ldentical twin girl are so much alike do the same thing, if one has it the other has to awell. Great reading thou... - 6/3/2010   12:54:34 AM
  • VANANDEL
    68
    Interesting article. I am an identical twin, and yes, we both love to exercise. We both tend to exercise much more than the average person, and we "crave" exercise if we can't get it for more than a day or two. - 6/2/2010   11:15:54 PM
  • NORAHMAE
    67
    I'm 80 years and have done some form of excercising most of my life dancing -swimming -walking- gym-and so did my Mother so I believe it is in the genes-I am motivated most of the time thinking about what she did at my age after all it isn't the years in your life it is the Life in your years - 6/2/2010   10:43:17 PM
  • GINGERFM
    66
    I am 67. My family history is a train wreck when it comes to living a long life. I want to take care of myself and try to beat whatever gene I have that says I will have a stroke or heart attack. This motivates me to exercise! It works, my numbers are great since I joined the Spark in 08. - 6/2/2010   6:10:59 PM
  • FULLLIFE7
    65
    Sorry, I don't believe this. Exposure, experience, desire, motivation I believe. - 6/2/2010   5:07:16 PM
  • 64
    I really only enjoy exercise that DOES something, like working in the garden or mowing the lawn or building something (can't now that I live in an apt.), or some such things. But I do get exercise at a gym now. People have been telling how "fun" exercise is for them, and I believe them. However, we are cut from different cloth. I find that I can get the most out of the least time spent a the gym. I guess I didn't get the exercise gene. No one in my family did either. Not to worry though. I'm motivated to do it anyway. - 6/2/2010   4:51:10 PM
  • 63
    Who am I to doubt 60% stats from twin studies, but I don't think it is so in my family! Neither of my parents are very active and my mom was not as a child and my dad played baseball and that was about it. My brother was very athletic in school, but not so much as an adult. I was never very active myself, but now find I am pretty much addicted to my daily workouts! If I don't get them in, I feel just.... I don't know.... wrong! So, perhaps the inactive genes are present in my family, but I was able to trick them by joining SP and beginning a regular activity schedule? - 6/2/2010   2:56:38 PM
  • 62
    I enjoy rollerskating and bicycling but that's not intense enough for me (or I don't push those disciplines hard).

    I like walk/jogging...kicks my butt...and that's what I need.

    I'm not strength training now but when I do...I love it...I love feeling my muscles work! I need to get that back into my schedule! - 6/2/2010   2:06:46 PM
  • 61
    I really don't care for exercise although I am trying to like it. My family was older and quite inactive. I actually thought that being grown up meant you could lie down whenever you wanted to. My question is this: Is inactivity in the genes as well?? - 6/2/2010   12:32:52 PM
  • 60
    twin studies are interesting but not always accurate. i think that much can be learned from them though.
    my husband is a twin and he loves to work out and exercise. but he is also in better shape than his brother. i motivate and encourage my husband to work out, whereas his brother does not recieve that motivation.
    i think the more in shape you are, the easier it gets to work out.... also, for those of us who have been in shape and out of shape, the excitement (hormonal response?) over working out comes from knowing how good we'll feel afterwards. we feel healthier and more accomplished when we are in shape or have made healthy choices for the day.
    once the body knows how good it's going to feel... it's gonna want it again and again!
    that's not science, i guess... just experience. =) - 6/2/2010   12:12:44 PM
  • SEWINGLADY145
    59
    I wonder if the reverse is true? Neither of my parents where sports or exercise inclined. My father was so bad, he would drive across the street and get teased about it. I was an active child but not sports inclined either. I am still not gun ho but force myself to walk and go to a gym. Very intersting study. - 6/2/2010   11:44:10 AM
  • 58
    Of course genes link us together - but it is the motivation to be active - not the gene that drives us.

    I know one set of identical twins - one is very thin and the other is overweight and does not like to exercise at all - same genes, yes... - 6/2/2010   11:15:48 AM
  • 57
    There are genetic components to everything. However, we need to be very cautious when we use genes as and explanation or excuse for anything. We are all born with certain inclinations, potentials. But what makes all the difference is what we do with what we got. Look at who you are and become the best possible version of yourself. It is our mindset that determines most of our life. - 6/2/2010   10:09:46 AM
  • 56
    I think it's a combination of both nature and nurture. My mother's mother was a phys ed teacher and the field hockey coach at the high school where she taught. My mother played basketball and field hockey in high school. My dad played football, and then played rugby in college. Both my parents took up tennis when I was a young girl, and I learned to run from my dad. I played tennis in high school and my first year in college. My parents also were alpine skiers and taught me and my siblings to ski. We had lots of family vacations over the years that included skiing, camping, canoeing, fishing, and hiking. My brother played basketball in high school; my sisters played field hockey. I really believe that although we are not first-rate athletes, we enjoy being active and are like that because my parents are like that, and because they shared their love of activity with us kids. My parents main form of exercise now is their daily walks and golf (they are in their late 60s). I currently hike, bike, and walk as my main forms of activity, and I also took up Nordic skiing about 15 years ago; I love it. I also occasionally play tennis, recently learned to kayak, and have started a C25k training program, which I'm learning to like. I just hope that I have passed some of this love activity to my daughter! - 6/2/2010   9:50:58 AM
  • DENNISDWE
    55
    I was the kid who was last picked nobody wanted me on the team in school.. i really was interested in just walking laps around the gym and play ground and maybe toe touches.. the kids all enjoyed picking on me so.
    instead of fun i find working out a problem and i really need to i think other are judging me as i try to do it.
    I also discovered i need a coach to work with me becasue of a recent learning issue.
    MY dad thought weight lifting was pretty foolish but he farmed the old way except no horses:) dig a fence by hand cut wood by hand.. garden big..
    i loved bike riding and still do that today.
    I just want to get past the idea foks wqtch me and judge me at the gym. sorry excuse for a 50 year old man but its honest.
    - 6/2/2010   9:07:01 AM
  • DEFINITELYDONNA
    54
    Hi, I love this topic... I am in a funny mood. As my lifesyles change over the years I wonder? Is it my genes? My nurture? My nature? My (levis)? lol.... I Quess it is a lighthen up laughter day and I am full of it! It is fun reading the answers to this question. I really enjoy spark people because one can be having a hard day and the mind can be turned in a totally different direction, to ponder some great questions. I grew up in the big woods and loved and lived off the land. My exercise was my existance. So what I did as I fished for dinner was all in preparation to feed the body. I never realized that as a child I was actually basically camping out much of the time growing up. So what you don't know then, teaches yourself alot about yourself later in life. I am still learning who I am and what I want to become when I grow up. - 6/2/2010   9:04:45 AM
  • 53
    I am an identical twin. We both excelled in Cross Country and Track in school. Both of us naturally have excellent endurance. We also have a high competitive drive. Currently, I run, and she does not, only because of the environment she is in does not make it easy for her to run. Unfortunately, she took up smoking, and I did not. Our whole family smoke when we were teenagers, and rather than follow the pack, I wanted nothing to do with that or all the other habits they had. I fought hard against genetic dependency (alcoholism, drug addiction, obesity, and smoking). However, even though she smokes, she can outrun many nonsmokers. I really believe that someone in our family passed this gene on to us. One more interesting thing, we have three other siblings, none of which are active. My parents are not active, either. Where did we get this from? Now, I have three children. My two oldest boys have inherited this gene, and run cross country, nordic skiing, and track. They qualified for states this year:) My last girl, enjoys it, but does not excel in it. I ended up becoming a middle school XC and Track Coach. - 6/2/2010   8:33:06 AM
  • 52
    i do think your genes - aka metabolism - plays a huge part in being active. but your upbringing plays a part, also your association with exercise. for me the only thing i liked to do and was really good at as a kid was roller skating, and later in my teens volleyball. but i was always concious of being a chubby kid and teen. of course the 'comments' and 'looks' were always there. when i had my own kids i try to teach by example and make every day active, fun and a good experience. it did not work, they have a weight problem of their own. i used to belong to a gym and went five days, two hours - cardio and weights as well as all the classes, yoga pilates etc. it was not terribly pleasant. i still try to walk - i have to say my body always hurt. i never got 'to the runners' high' on the treadmill. i never felt 'fantastic' after a work out- just sore, in need of a shower and glad it was over. i also have not achieved the 'look' - no abs of steel, rock hard stomach or shapely legs. i do it because i have to, otherwise if i could get away without it - that would be the ultimate!!!! BB - 6/2/2010   8:12:00 AM
  • 51
    Well there's a lot of research on all kinds of things. My comment on this one is "Interesting, but so what?" Do I have another excuse not to exercise? "Sorry, it's genetic." We all make lifestyle choices, and while genetics is a fascinating field, I don't believe that biology is destiny. - 6/2/2010   8:07:15 AM
  • 50
    I have an identical twin sister, and we both are fairly active & enjoy exercise. Growing up, we were into gymnastics and were very active, though our parents weren't very into exercising. However, we lived out in the country where my parents farmed their own vegetables, so they weren't inactive, exactly. - 6/2/2010   6:43:50 AM
  • 49
    I'm more into exercising than scrapbooking. :) Interesting theory about exercise and genes. - 6/2/2010   6:24:22 AM
  • 48
    I am not surprised that genetics has a roll to play in whether or not we enjoy exercise, just as it's a factor--one of many--in many personality traits. But we are not slaves to the destiny in our DNA. We shouldn't underestimate the influence of our parents, our social environment such as our friends at school, and our own experiences.

    My dad has always liked working out and running and being active. My mother was always reasonably active, though never athletic, and I was encouraged to be active when I was a child. But both my parents are also readers, and I've always been more interested in reading than in sports or exercise. Genetics? Nurture? Probably both, combined with who my friends and my experiences as a child who was never very adept at sports.

    I don't know if I will ever become one of those sparkers who loves exercising. After more than a year of working out consistently, I can't say that I'm there yet. Maybe someday I'll cross that balancing point on fitness where being active is fun. Maybe I'll get back to the point where I can be reasonably active living my life and not have to struggle to fit in working out on top of everything else. In the meantime, I work out because I like walking without pain (I'm recovering from a hip injury--I was reasonably active before I hurt my hip though I never liked exercise) and because I don't want to be overweight.
    - 6/2/2010   1:56:41 AM
  • FLUFFY_KITTY
    47
    My whole family never really exercised, therefore, I didn't either. My adopted momma was a tomboy so she played outside every time she got a chance, but sports no. Then my real dad was not into sports either. He preferred things that required his brains...like I do. I grimace when I have to push myself to exercise. I have never found it enjoyable to do so. I am more of a creative person like my grandmother. So I believe this article is about right. - 6/2/2010   1:16:03 AM
  • PEGGIET
    46
    I can't argue with the theory of genes affecting exercise. I am from a family of 6 - we have all been athletic throughout our lives, and it was not taught to us as children. We just did what we wanted to do. - 6/2/2010   12:41:01 AM
  • 45
    I don't really think our GENES have much to do with whether or not we exercise. Certainly the biggest affect has to come from the way we grew up. ME....neither parent was into exercising. But then Mom worked around the house and garden, and Dad held down 2 jobs. I was an active kid, playing all the time when I didn't have chores to do.
    Today, I exercise because it is about living! Living well, and healthy has nothing to do with my genes! - 6/2/2010   12:16:09 AM
  • 44
    Interesting not sure, but genetics certainly play a role in how we may store fat, & tendency to gain weight & other factors. I also believe that we are greatly influenced by our environment. People tend to learn what you live, but can overcome it as well. I wasn't taught about nutrition, &
    exercise growing up. I am now a big advocate of health &
    fitness, & practice what I preach. Unfortunately I am the only person in my family that is very active. I have a passion for it that none in my family seem to have. I'd still like to see more research done in any event. - 6/1/2010   10:57:48 PM
  • 43
    Interesting to consider how genes might affect us in many areas of our lives.

    I certainly don't love to exercise; I do however, enjoy productive activities. I've always done something -- dance, swim, gymanastics, aerobics, circuit weights, and, even running. Knowing my genetic predispostion might help me find ways to be active in ways that I enjoy or in ways that are productive (like mowing the lawn), and to burn my excess stored fuel -- THAT I might actually continue to do.

    LOL ~ I'm built for endurance however, not for speed. So it does and will take a lot of sustained high-effort activity to burn that stored fuel!! - 6/1/2010   10:45:55 PM
  • 42
    Genetics are one thing--epigenetics are another. We all have the power to affect the way our genes are realized. This is increasingly clear by the research. Genes are not destiny. They're just a start. - 6/1/2010   9:24:13 PM
  • 41
    Not quite sure about the gene. Though, my father was quite active in sports when he was younger. Even now, when he's not participate in any kind of sports (or exercises, *sigh), he still active moving around. I don't think my brother is into sports. And me, I'm more to social-sport - where I join my friends for fun and play without rule, haha. I'm more to workouts to keep myself active. Maybe there's a bit truth about that gene theory - keeping oneself active though by different way, my dad's into sports, myself more to jump rope :D. - 6/1/2010   8:43:56 PM
  • 40
    My dislike of exercises started when people started to point out how unco-ordinated I was - at the age of 8. It had nothing to do with wanting to or not wanted to move. It had to do with my need for only doing things I do well at.... - 6/1/2010   8:18:12 PM
  • STEPHENERS
    39
    Mind over matter baby!!!!! I have fairly decent genes, and parents who have always been active, but the whole "its in my genes" thing is a pretty great excuse if you ask me. I was raised to love sugar and to have an emotional attachment to food. Is it my genes... maybe, but because I am aware of it I know that I cannot keep tubs of ice cream and cookies in the house, not use it as an excuse. If you know that it is in your genes to get skin cancer, you don't just sit inside all day and avoid the outside world. You just make sure to put sunscreen and a hat on. Same for adapting a healthy lifestyle. If you are predisposed to have bad joints, go swimming instead of trying to go running or taking up step aerobics. Know your weakness and work with them! There is something active that everyone can enjoy from square dancing to belly dancing, from running to hiking, to jumping rope and step aerobics, from outdoor activities like kayaking to doing a workout dvd in your home, the list really does go on and on. We are so blessed to live in a society that offers plenty of options, just realize what works for you. - 6/1/2010   7:55:10 PM
  • 38
    You know.....I just don't buy this. Sure, body type and coordination and ability is genetic, and yes, you can be more or less athletic, but genes making me want to exercise? Nope. I hated "exercise" because of humiliating experiences and uninspired gym classes growing up, and trying to go all out on the first try (and getting nothing but exhausted and pain for my trouble) when I was an adult. When I committed to exercising at an appropriate level, building up gradually, and trying different things until I found things I loved, I found out I liked exercise after all. Anyone can learn to like physical activity, just as, BTW, anyone can find a creative outlet they enjoy, whether it's scrapbooking, painting, or cooking, whatever their genetic heritage. - 6/1/2010   6:53:07 PM
  • 37
    This is a very interesting study. I love scrap booking but also love to walk and working out. My mother was a Jack LaLanne (sp?) exerciser and I have fond memories of watching her work out with Jack on the TV. I think that Sparkpeople has made me more aware of the variety of ways to keep fit and helps keep me motivated. - 6/1/2010   6:47:45 PM
  • EXILEORANGE45
    36
    im a scrapbooker lol,..id love to wana run more, like i know i want to sum times but, A) i dnt like running in the day cuz i dnt like ppl seeing me huffing n puffing, B) id love to have a jogging buddy, the women i exserice w. has breathing troubles so shes no runner, n C) i loose motivation, if i had sum1 to run w. id do it during the day, where i live theres alot of beaches so id love to go for runs w. sum1 on the beach. - 6/1/2010   6:36:21 PM
  • TATSCHELL128
    35
    I must have been adopted if this study is true. My parents were not big into exercise. I love running and kickboxing. Things that get me moving ... fast. I think some may use this as an excuse or feel that they are predisposed in reacting a certain way to exercise. Take this one with a grain of salt. I am sure there are many like me who are totally different then then their parents when it comes to exercising. Plus think about each generation. In the 80's there was a big boom in the exercise business. In my parents days this was not so. We just have way more out there to choose from far as exercising. Food for thought. - 6/1/2010   5:48:48 PM
  • ESHAN083011
    34
    I do not like running myself but do love working out with structured excersizes in a gym or outside. I loved Softball growing up - 6/1/2010   5:31:38 PM

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