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International Journal of Pediatrics
Volume 2010, Article ID 138345, 8 pages
Research Article

Genetic Influences on Individual Differences in Exercise Behavior during Adolescence

Department of Biological Psychology, VU University, Van der Boechorststraat 1, 1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Received 25 January 2010; Accepted 17 May 2010

Academic Editor: Lars B. Andersen

Copyright © 2010 Niels van der Aa et al. 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 aim of this study was to investigate the degree to which genetic and environmental influences affect variation in adolescent exercise behavior. Data on regular leisure time exercise activities were analyzed in 8,355 adolescent twins, from three-age cohorts (13-14, 15-16, and 17–19 years). Exercise behavior was assessed with survey items about type of regular leisure time exercise, frequency, and duration of the activities. Participants were classified as sedentary, regular exercisers, or vigorous exercisers. The prevalence of moderate exercise behavior declined from age 13 to 19 years with a parallel increase in prevalence of sedentary behavior, whereas the prevalence of vigorous exercise behavior remained constant across age cohorts. Variation in exercise behavior was analyzed with genetic structural equation modeling employing a liability threshold model. Variation was largely accounted for by genetic factors (72% to 85% of the variance was explained by genetic factors), whereas shared environmental factors only accounted for a substantial part of the variation in girls aged 13-14 years (46%). We hypothesize that genetic effects on exercise ability may explain the high heritability of exercise behavior in this phase of life.