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BioMed Research International
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 821678, 10 pages
Review Article

Why Control Activity? Evolutionary Selection Pressures Affecting the Development of Physical Activity Genetic and Biological Regulation

Huffines Institute of Sports Medicine and Human Performance, Health and Kinesiology Department, Texas A&M University, 356 Blocker Building, 4243 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843, USA

Received 11 October 2013; Accepted 20 November 2013

Academic Editor: Jaakko Kaprio

Copyright © 2013 J. Timothy Lightfoot. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The literature strongly suggests that daily physical activity is genetically and biologically regulated. Potential identities of the responsible mechanisms are unclear, but little has been written concerning the possible evolutionary selection pressures leading to the development of genetic/biological controls of physical activity. Given the weak relationship between exercise endurance and activity levels and the differential genomic locations associated with the regulation of endurance and activity, it is probable that regulation of endurance and activity evolved separately. This hypothesis paper considers energy expenditures and duration of activity in hunter/gatherers, pretechnology farmers, and modern Western societies and considers the potential of each to selectively influence the development of activity regulation. Food availability is also considered given the known linkage of caloric restriction on physical activity as well as early data relating food oversupply to physical inactivity. Elucidating the selection pressures responsible for the genetic/biological control of activity will allow further consideration of these pressures on activity in today’s society, especially the linkages between food and activity. Further, current food abundance is removing the cues for activity that were present for the first 40,000 years of human evolution, and thus future research should investigate the effects of this abundance upon the mechanisms regulating activity.