You might think you can’t change your DNA, but a new study suggests that people born with a gene that predisposes them to obesity can reduce the gene’s effect by exercising. The study found that the gene was weakened in adults who worked out compared to people who shied away from exercise.
Researchers analyzed a total of 54 studies involving more than 218,000 adults and nearly 20,000 kids. The results of the studies that focused on adults found that carrying a copy of the so-called fat gene did increase the risk of becoming obese by 30 percent. But active adults appeared to cut their risk by roughly a third as compared to the couch potatoes. Alas, the findings didn’t hold true for children in the study.
The criteria used to define inactive included people with a sedentary occupation who reported less than one hour of moderate to vigorous activity per week. The researchers said their findings—that prevention can help reduce the risk of the gene—give a sense of control to people who might have otherwise felt helpless.
Bottom line: Whether you carry the obesity gene or not, logging a little time on the treadmill or elliptical doesn’t hurt—most adults should aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. In our survey on weight loss, we found that regular vigorous exercise—the kind that gets your heart rate up and going for 30 minutes or longer—was strongly linked to a lower BMI. And don’t forget about weights—strength training was significantly more prevalent among successful losers in our survey and always-thin respondents than it was among failed dieters.
Physical Activity Attenuates the Influence of FTO Variants on Obesity Risk: A Meta-Analysis of 218,166 Adults and 19,268 Children [PLoS Medicine]