Don’t Like to Exercise? It Could Be in Your Genes

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If you’re not a big fan of working out and never have been, mom and dad could be to blame. A study says that your genes could play a huge role in your interest in exercise and fitness.

When people work out, the body sends out a mental reward by way of increased amounts of dopamine, a brain chemical that promotes feelings of motivation, pleasure and well-being.

Flickr Image Courtesy: Joe Shlabotnik, CC BY-SA 4.0
Flickr Image Courtesy: Joe Shlabotnik, CC BY-SA 4.0

But Rodney Dishman, Professor of Kinesiology at the University of Georgia, and lead researcher in the study, says that a select group of people don’t get that benefit because their specific gene pool disrupts the dopamine release.

“Variation in genes for dopamine receptors, as well as some other neural signaling genes, help explain why about 25 percent of the participants drop out of exercise or don’t exercise at the recommended amount,” Dishman said. “Combined with personality measures, we think these genes may help explain why some people have a natural urge to be active, while others never do.”

This study was first conducted by studying lab rats that were selectively bred to be fit and active or unfit and inactive. Dishpan and his team discovered these rats differed in genetics linked with dopamine activity.

The researchers then moved to a clinical trial with more than 3,000 adults and noticed similar results in humans.

The study was presented at a meeting in Phoenix of the American Physiological Society.

But there could be hope for those who have never liked to exercise. Dori Arad, a registered dietitian and certified exercise physiologist at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City, believes genetics is only part of the story and people can still make exercise a healthy and pleasurable habit that they enjoy in life.

“You can decide to be active and move and do exercise,” Arad said. “In essence you can rewrite your brain so that exercise becomes pleasurable and rewarding.”

Dishman adds that finding physical activities you enjoy plus partnering with individuals who promote positive social interactions during your workout is also key. “If you haven’t found something which is pleasurable, either the activity or the people you’re doing it with,” he said, “then you don’t have much reason to continue it.”

Statistics show that only 20 percent of adults in the United States get the recommended amounts of aerobic exercise and strength training.

Ronke Idowu Reeves
Ronke Idowu Reeves is a writer and journalist who hails from Brooklyn, NY. Her news and entertainment stories have appeared on WABC-TV-New York, Fox News Channel, VH1, BET.com plus in Sundance Film Festival’s Sundance Daily Insider and People Magazine.