A longitudinal study on genetic and environmental influences on leisure time physical activity in the Finnish Twin Cohort

Sari Aaltonen, Alfredo Ortega-Alonso, Urho M Kujala, Jaakko Kaprio
Twin Research and Human Genetics: the Official Journal of the International Society for Twin Studies 2010, 13 (5): 475-81
The purpose of this study was to examine changes in the contribution of genetic and environmental influences to leisure time physical activity among male and female twins over a 6-year follow-up. At baseline the sample comprised 4,280 monozygotic and 9,276 dizygotic twin individuals, and at follow-up 4,383 monozygotic and 9,439 dizygotic twin individuals. Participants were aged 18-54 years at baseline. Genetic modeling results showed that genetic influences on leisure time physical activity declined from baseline (44%) to follow-up (34%). Most of the genetic influences identified at baseline were present at followup (r(g) = 0.72). Specific environmental influences increased from baseline (56%) to follow-up (66%) while at follow-up new environmental time-specific influences were observed (r(e) = 0.23). The model with sex differences showed a higher estimate of genetic influences for men than women both at baseline (men 47% vs. women 42%) and at follow-up (men 38% vs. women 31%). The additive genetic correlation for this phenotype was greater for men (r(g) = 0.79) than women (r(g) = 0.64). The specific environmental influences were corresponding; at baseline men 53% and women 56% and at follow-up men 62 % and women 69%. The environmental correlations between the two time points were similar for men (r(e)= 0.21) and for women (r(e)= 0.24). In conclusion, in a sample of healthy twins most of the genetic influences on leisure time physical activity expressed at baseline were present at 6 years of follow-up. New specific environmental factors underlying follow-up leisure time physical activity were observed.

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