The Interplay between Genes and Psychosocial Home Environment on Physical Activity

Sari Aaltonen, Jaakko Kaprio, Urho M Kujala, Lea Pulkkinen, Richard J Rose, Karri Silventoinen
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2018, 50 (4): 691-699

INTRODUCTION: Genetic factors contribute to individual differences in physical activity, but it remains uncertain whether the magnitude of the genetic effects is modified by variations in home environments. We aimed to examine to what extent the psychosocial home environment in childhood and adolescence modifies the genetic influences on leisure time physical activity in young adulthood.

METHODS: Participants were Finnish twins (N = 3305) who reported their leisure time physical activity at age 24 yr. The psychosocial home environment was assessed by twins at ages 12, 14, and 17 yr, as well as by their parents when the twins were age 12 yr. Gene-environment interaction modeling was performed with OpenMx software.

RESULTS: Parental ratings of positive home atmosphere as well as the twins' ratings of both positive home atmosphere at age 14 yr and lower relational tensions at ages 12 and 14 yr predicted higher leisure time physical activity levels in young adulthood (regression coefficients = 0.33-0.64). Parental perceptions as well as the twins' perceptions of positive home atmosphere at ages 14 and 17 yr increased the additive genetic variation (moderation effects: 0.55, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.29-0.80; 0.60, 95% CI = 0.26-1.05; and 0.52, 95% CI = 0.19-0.87, respectively). The twins' ratings of positive home atmosphere at age 12 yr and lower relational tensions at ages 12 and 14 yr increased the unique environmental variation of their subsequent physical activity (moderation effects: 0.46, 95% CI = 0.19-0.60; 0.48, 95% CI = 0.29-0.64; and 0.85, 95% CI = 0.12-0.95, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS: A psychosocial home environment that is warm and supportive in childhood and adolescence not only increases the mean level of subsequent leisure time physical activity in young adulthood but also modifies the genetic and environmental variances in leisure time physical activity.

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