Genetic Influences on Individual Differences in Exercise Behavior during Adolescence

  • van der Aa N
  • De Geus E
  • van Beijsterveldt T
  • et al.
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The aim of this study was to investigate the degree to which genetic and environmental influences affect variation in adolescent exercise behavior. Data on regular leisure time exercise activities were analyzed in 8,355 adolescent twins, from three-age cohorts (13-14, 15-16, and 17–19 years). Exercise behavior was assessed with survey items about type of regular leisure time exercise, frequency, and duration of the activities. Participants were classified as sedentary, regular exercisers, or vigorous exercisers. The prevalence of moderate exercise behavior declined from age 13 to 19 years with a parallel increase in prevalence of sedentary behavior, whereas the prevalence of vigorous exercise behavior remained constant across age cohorts. Variation in exercise behavior was analyzed with genetic structural equation modeling employing a liability threshold model. Variation was largely accounted for by genetic factors (72% to 85% of the variance was explained by genetic factors), whereas shared environmental factors only accounted for a substantial part of the variation in girls aged 13-14 years (46%). We hypothesize that genetic effects on exercise ability may explain the high heritability of exercise behavior in this phase of life.




van der Aa, N., De Geus, E. J. C., van Beijsterveldt, T. C. E. M., Boomsma, D. I., & Bartels, M. (2010). Genetic Influences on Individual Differences in Exercise Behavior during Adolescence. International Journal of Pediatrics, 2010, 1–8.

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