Motivation to Exercise and Laziness May Be Genetic

3 years 8 months 2 weeks ago May 01, 2013 May 1, 2013 Wednesday, May 01 2013 Wednesday, May 01, 2013 8:38:00 AM CDT in News
By: Andie Lowenstein

COLUMBIA - A team of scientists at MU recently interbred rats to determine if motivation to be active or indolent is inherited.

For some time now, exercise scientists suspected that the motivation to exercise - or not - may be linked to genetics.

MU Professor of Physiology Dr. Frank Booth oversaw a team of researchers, who conducted a study to test this theory.  The scientists looked at how active the rats are by putting running wheels in their cages and tracked their activity for six days.  Afterwards, the rats with the higher levels of physical activity were interbred while those with the least activity were bred together.

Five years and 10 generations later, the scientists discovered that the descendants of the more active rats were 10 times more likely to exercise on their own than the lazy ones.

Researchers have also studied identical twins.  They found that the twins used in their study typically exercised as much or as little as their parents or siblings, even if they grew up in different environments.

"There is a genetic basis for being physically active," Dr. Booth said.  "The question becomes: Are you predestined because of those genes? We don't think so.  So we're now working on different things to show that if we get the animals physically active that they will overcome the predisposition to want to be inactive."

Orthopedist Dr. Matt Thornburg believes there are other factors that affect our behavior as well.

"Environment plays a large role in this.  Parents, your friends.  When I was younger you played outside.  Now kids can sit inside on I-Pads, videogames, TV."

Dr. Booth says that technology, cultural factors, and lifestyle factors have gotten in the way of our natural instinct to be physically active. He believes that we have "genetically engineered" a lot of physical activity out of our lives as well as health.

However, scientists don't want the research to be another excuse not to exercise.  They urge adults to keep their children physically active.

Dr. Booth says the next step in this research will be to modulate the genes either by gene transfer or drugs.

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