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Even if your whole family is overweight, that doesn’t mean fat has to be your fate, too. As easy as it is to blame mom and dad for our weight, new research suggests that exercise may be able to combat whatever genes they dealt us. The study, published in the journal PLoS Medicine, suggests that regular physical activity can reduce the effect of obesity genes by 40 percent and that people who are genetically predisposed to obesity can benefit from working out even more than those who don’t have genetic markers for obesity.
Researchers examined 20,430 people living in England, between the ages of 39 and 79, to study the effects of 12 genetic variations known to increase the risk of obesity. First, they tested how many of these variants each participant inherited from their parents. Most people inherited between 10 and 13 variants, while some had more than 17, and others fewer than 6. The higher the number of variants a person has, the greater one’s susceptibility is to obesity.
When they compared the number of obesity genes each person had to their body mass index (BMI), the researchers found that each genetic variant was associated with a 1.3-pound weight increase for an average, sedentary 5’6” person. But in people who were physically active, the genes had less of an impact on weight and obesity risk. For each gene they inherited, their weight increased by just .83 pounds -- 36 percent less than in non-exercisers. What’s more, people’s odds of being obese were 40 percent lower when they maintained a regular workout routine.
Another recent study, this one in adolescents, confirms these findings. It found that kids with an obesity gene who got the daily recommended amount of exercise showed virtually none of the fat and weight increases associated with the that gene. Other research shows that people who enter adulthood with a normal BMI have a greater chance of maintaining a normal weight throughout life. People who enter adulthood obese, on the other hand, have twice the risk of dying a premature death. The great news about this study is that it offers hope to people who think there’s nothing they can do about their weight. Every little bit of exercise can help you lose weight, become healthier, and help you feel better about yourself -- now and far into the future.
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