Your Genes Could Make You Want To Exercise

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
6/1/2010 8:12 AM   :  83 comments   :  13,735 Views

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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

  • 33
    All I know is that I was never a fan of PE in school. I did love sports though. Then after high school I got back into the non-exercising gene. After a health scare, I got into the exercise gene and have not stopped. I actually love to exercise in the gym, Zumba, etc. It really helps to ease my stress. I really don't think this has anything to do with my genes... - 6/1/2010   5:20:05 PM
  • 32
    I don't know one way or the others... some interesting comments and points of view have been shared.
    I just know that one of the reasons I have exercised over the years was for mental sanity. I ALWAYS feel better after I've moved my body. I'm NOT great at anything, but moving has always been worth the effort. Lately it has not provided the hoped for weight loss, but the "feel good" of doing it is still the best for me.
    - 6/1/2010   3:17:14 PM
  • 31
    I hate to exercise. My parents grew up on farms and worked all there lives doing physical activity, so it wasn't that they were inactive. They thought "exercise" was a joke and for LAZY people who didn't do REAL work. I think my idea about exercise comes from no reward about it. My husband has always been one to criticize what effort I do try to put into exercise, and that makes it even less appealing to me. But, at 60 I just have to "Get up and DO IT." - 6/1/2010   2:42:59 PM
  • 30
    I think I have switched my own genes then...from a "couch potato" gene to a SP "active" gene. Seriously, no study needed, it's a choice. - 6/1/2010   2:25:35 PM
  • 29
    I am not sure this makes sense to me.... I mean, I do not think that genetics have much to do w/ if I like to exercise or not. I think people just like what they like & even 2 people who like the same thing might like it for different reasons.

    I do not know though. It is possible, sure, only because I believe ANYTHING is possible, just seems too weird though! I do think that if children grow up in an environment where exercise is fun, then they grow up thinking that it is fun, they are more likely to enjoy it. Seems more like a learned behavior than genetics to me - 6/1/2010   2:15:38 PM
  • 28
    i didnt realize there was a genetic link to exercise. i always thought it was a learned behavior or non behavior. guess i got the non-exercise genes! - 6/1/2010   2:15:24 PM
  • 27
    I never thought genes could influence my desire to exercise. I was basically sedentary most of my life and started running last year. Since I started I've pretty much become addicted to it. My mom is very active but my dad and sister are not. - 6/1/2010   1:42:35 PM
  • 26
    My 79 year old mother is a fraternal twin. She was involved in all kinds of sports as a child and has continued that throughout her entire life. Even now she's on her treadmill everyday, takes yoga and tap dance classes. On the other hand my aunt (Moms twin sister) was always a homebody and has hardly exercised her entire life. The study seems to have some validity. - 6/1/2010   1:18:15 PM
  • 25
    I think about EVERY drive or tendency we have starts with nature (genes) and then nature leads to nurture (choices and habit), which is even more powerful--but only if we allow it to happen. We don't have to allow the choices our genes pull us toward to lead to habits. All of successful living is about channeling or quenching our nature into good choices and habits and somewhere in late childhood, early teens, we then become determined more and more by our choices--it's called maturity. If we all just went with the flow of where "nature" is pulling us, we'd still be living like cavemen--no, I think human life would have already vanished from the earth. - 6/1/2010   12:15:04 PM
  • CORPREWROBIN
    24
    While in the Army I use to exercise all the time and wanted too, but since I've been out I cant seem to get the motivation to get up and move I cant get in the mood to be more physically active.I wish it was a gene then I guess I could say I wasn't lazy . - 6/1/2010   12:12:53 PM
  • MOMM4LIFE
    23
    I think part of it is genetic and the other part of this equation is habit. Some folks are better at sports because of genetics, but I think others can train to be good at sports and exercise. I believe it's a combination. I have Spark friends who were never athletes as children but are running 5K's and have phenomenal times for individuals who became runners as adults. Is exercising in your genes? Perhaps, but I think a body can be trained to exercise. It starts in the mind.
    - 6/1/2010   11:43:21 AM
  • 22
    If it's in the genes It isn't in mine. My family is so over weight and the only workout that they got was raising their arm to put food into their mouth. And in my family I am the only one who loves to workout. I am the only one who works on their weight. So go figure! - 6/1/2010   11:26:46 AM
  • 21
    I don't know if it's genetic or not but even after I have formed the habit of exercising it, I still don't really like it. I feel great after actually forcing myself to exercise and usually enjoy it once I am about half-way into it but I have to talk myself in to exercising pretty much everyday. - 6/1/2010   11:21:59 AM
  • 20
    It certainly is genetic. I read the book Good Carbs, Bad Carbs by Gary Taubes and Gina Kolata's Rethinking Thin and they deconstruct the whole argument about eat less and move more. (Not that I am low-carbing, no, no, no! But I truly sympathize with them ... )

    My immediate family was never given to exercise beyond the occasional 5 mile walk or spot-reducing schemes. My sister was a different story, and even then, it was social stuff like ice skating, fencing or water basketball; and later camping, hiking and cross country skiing. The military for my brothers, was a different story.

    For me, I'd fallen hard for step aerobics and it had exacerbated a tendency for my feet to go bad. Most of my life was not like that. Though not exactly ... I have a yoga and pilates practice several times a week although I will be modulating my preferred style and studio ...

    Tina
    - 6/1/2010   11:19:34 AM
  • 19
    I think a lot of things are a combination of nature and nurture. Kids may love to exercise if they have active fun with their parents. I don't like exercising, if it didn't have any benefits, I would probably never move! But, I definitely like it more than I did as a kid when I was FORCED to do active things I hated. - 6/1/2010   11:13:04 AM
  • 18
    After reading this, I think I need new genes! - 6/1/2010   11:11:01 AM
  • 17
    I think the tendencies to be athletic is genetic, however, not necessarily wanting and craving to exercise. I was athletic and desire to exercise. No one else in my family really exercises, but I but most are have athletic tendencies. I think it is a lot in training your body and mind. I enjoy it. Others do it because they make themselves. I want to help train my children to exercise and hope that it sticks in later years. - 6/1/2010   11:01:43 AM
  • 16
    hmmm... now, that's an interesting question. Is a love of exercise genetic ? When I was a kid, I loved roller skating. I also loved swimming, riding a bike, climbing, martial arts, etc... all those things I enjoyed as a kid, I still enjoy today. Did my parents like sports ? My dad did. My mom didn't. If my mom "exercised" it was because she wanted to lose weight. My dad exercised because it was fun.

    Personally, I think a love of sports is more about your environment and motivation. Genetics might determine what we might be good at though. The fact is, some people are better suited to running, swimming or cycling than others. Look at Michael Phelps, did swimming cause his physique or did his physique determine that he'd swim instead of run ?

    - 6/1/2010   10:54:42 AM
  • VENIETA
    15
    I do not not know if it is or not . What i do know that although my parents didn't exercise is the traditional sense (running, walking. jogging, etc) they did exercise in the manner such as farming, walking miles to the catch a bus, ride horses, donkeys, mules etc..LOL..I love to exercise in a traditional sense. It may have something to do with serving in the Marine Corps. I think it gives you a natural high. When I don't exercise, i just don't feel right. My daughter walks with me daily but she hates it. She doesn't do it because she wants to so i don't know about "genes" - 6/1/2010   10:45:31 AM
  • CZEIDMAN
    14
    If you aren't inclined to exercise, but other people tell you it's a lot of fun- and you're a kid, I think you would be "trained" to see the fun in it. - 6/1/2010   10:31:27 AM
  • LOLO2CHAMP
    13
    I think that it is genetic or at the very least determined by your family environment. Everyone in my family runs for exercise as well as pleasure but they all started at different times and on their own choice. I like to run but my increasing weight made it impossible for my ankle to support as I ran - I am trying to get back to the point where I can transition from walking to jogging and then hopefully to running. My oldest daughter loves to run - she just started track this year and my youngest wants to join this year because they say it makes them feel free like they are flying in the wind - 6/1/2010   10:29:10 AM
  • 12
    I agree to a certain extent. However, I was diagnosed with asthma when I was very young. I still suffer from it, but we know a lot more about it than we did in the 60's. If my parents hadn't been so afraid I'd have an attack and die (rescue inhalers weren't readily available) I might have been generally more athletic. What I've determined from working out regularly is that my muscles respond well to exercise. I'd say I'm genetically predisposed to be fit and trim, but my environment worked against me and got me into some bad habits.
    I'm glad I've figured this out now - I'm in my 40's and plan to stay fit and healthy for the rest of my life. I don't love working out, but I can see benefits pretty quickly and that keeps me motivated. - 6/1/2010   10:22:51 AM
  • 11
    I can see the desire for exercise being partly genetic. My family all have the same issues with exercise and making it a habit. But it's also a lot due to environment and situations, so no one should use "genetics" as an excuse for not exercising. It would just mean that some people find exercising a lot easier, and others will have to work a little bit harder to keep up. - 6/1/2010   9:50:25 AM
  • 10
    I believe my drive, determination and tendency to be routine came from my parents, what I do with it (namely, run) is entirely my own. - 6/1/2010   9:47:48 AM
  • 9
    I was born with couch potato genes, and in my family, exercise is a 4 letter word. Sweat is even worse. I look at what my genetics and raising would lead to, and beleive me, it gets me off the couch! - 6/1/2010   9:42:33 AM
  • 8
    Even if it is, as the study noted, only 60% of the effect could be attributed to genes. Biology is not destiny. I think anyone can make exercise a habit, or at least choose active leisure activities. - 6/1/2010   9:41:00 AM
  • 7
    Hi,
    I think we inherit our body shape, metabolism, etc., and our food & lifestyle choices impact what we inherited. Sedentary cavemen would not have survived for long. But have I inherited a desire to exercise?
    Yes and no.
    I feel better physically and mentally when I exercise because, I believe, our minds and bodies are built for work. But secretly, I'm lazy. I'd love to be naturally thin. I'm not. It's taken me 50 years of complaining about the unfairness of life to accept who and what I am. Some of us have a fast metabolism and appear to be able to eat anything and stay slim. Others are like me: Everything we eat goes straight to hips, thighs and belly. Like it or not, I have to exercise. I am predisposed to it in my genes and in my jeans. :0 - 6/1/2010   9:30:22 AM
  • 6
    I'm not sure if it's my genetic predisposition since my parents, though were very fit in the military, never sought physical fitness once they left the military. I'm just learning how to be fit, but I don't think it's my motivation that's keeping me going. I've never been motivated for more than a few days. I've never been disappointed to be unable to exercise due to overly sore muscles (as I am now). I've persevered before through the first few days. I'm just determined to live a healthier lifestyle. I'm inspired to and it goes through the fabric of me as much as my love for my kids and husband. Maybe it's my love for them that makes me so determined (and excited). But I can't imagine a day without fitness in my life in some form or another. - 6/1/2010   9:02:36 AM
  • 5
    I totally agree. I am so much like my parents, I try to change and become more active but it is so hard for me. - 6/1/2010   9:02:01 AM
  • 4
    I don't think genes play a part. My family never did like to exercise and even though my brothers and I played when we were young they stopped as they got older. However even as a youngster I was very active and always taking my dog for a walk or playing hard games. I also didn't have a car after having my daughter so I had to walk to the daycare and carry her back. Buses didn't run at that time of night. I think its how we perceive ourselves. - 6/1/2010   8:55:43 AM
  • 3
    I suppose genetic predisposition could play a part, but I would hate to see it made an excuse for lack of exercise the way it is for everything from criminal behavior on out. Genes are kind of like the hand you get dealt in a card game--you can improve (or ruin) your game by careful play. Throwing in at the beginning is very rarely a sound strategy. - 6/1/2010   8:38:44 AM
  • 2
    I am not sure what motivates some to exercise more then others. All I know is that if I don't get my exercise in each day, I don't feel good about the day. I think for me it's that I know if I don't exercise, then the weight isn't going to come off, but then again even when I wasn't trying hard to loose weight, I still consistantly worked out consistantly 6x's a week. - 6/1/2010   8:25:58 AM
  • 1
    I definitely think it's genetic or at least genes play a part. Both my parents loathed exercise as did their parents and now all of their children do as well. When I was in the NAVY I had to exercise, it was part of boot camp. Even though when I was done with my morning calisthenics I felt like I could take on the world but...I still dreaded doing the exercises and the idea of doing them every day. After 8 weeks you would think my disposition would change but ut didn't. After bootcp I never did exercise just for the sake of doing it. If it wasn't something I did as a byproduct of wherever task I was doing, I didnt do it. It's still that way.
    It always amazes me when I see people who were completely sedentary, obese and happy eating enough to feed two people turn into fit, healthy people who find they love exercise. I always think "how do I get me some of that? How did they change?".
    It's this that makes me think genes play a big part in this. - 6/1/2010   8:24:34 AM

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