Exercise Genomics

Part of the series Molecular and Translational Medicine pp 45-72


Can You Be Born a Couch Potato? The Genomic Regulation of Physical Activity

  • J. Timothy LightfootAffiliated withDepartment of Health and Kinesiology, Sydney and JL Huffines Institute for Sports Medicine and Human Performance, Texas A&M University Email author 

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Most behaviors are controlled by a combination of environmental and genetic/biological factors. The regulation of daily physical activity levels, however, has primarily been considered to be environmental in origin. A growing body of recent data suggests that, in actuality, the primary controller of physical activity levels may be genetic in origin, especially in adults. Thus, the purpose of this chapter is to describe the current “state of the art” regarding physical activity genetics. Extensive human and animal models have produced an initial genomic map indicating potential genomic locations associated with physical activity. This map in addition to other criteria has produced several potential candidate genes associated with physical activity with varying levels of support for their candidacy. The literature has quantified the influence of genetics on activity and identified some potential responsible genes. Yet, much work is needed to establish the mechanisms through which these genes control physical activity as well as the regulatory factors located outside the genomic boundary of annotated genes (i.e., within the intergenic areas) associated with physical activity regulation.


Physical activity Exercise Genetics Candidate genes Quantitative trait loci Positional cloning Heritability of activity Human heritability of activity Mouse heritability of activity