Some apps offer users money for checking in at the gym; others create games with a little friendly competition. But for some, exercising is still a chore, and even a wad of cash or a virtual trophy can’t make the treadmill seem more appealing than the couch. A new study adds to a growing body of research suggesting that some people are genetically predisposed to be physically active, while others have genes that make them more likely to be more sedentaryPhenotypic and molecular differences between rats selectively bred to run high versus low nightly distances. Roberts, M.D., Brown, J.D., Company, J.M., et al. University of Missouri. American Journal of Physiology 2013 Apr 3. Epub ahead of print.. This research comes at a time when rates of physical inactivity — and related issues including obesity — are skyrocketing; and it’s a reminder that some people may need a little boost when it comes to achieving their health and fitness goals.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the rats that liked to run had a lower average body mass than the rats who didn’t. They also had higher levels of mitochondria, the cellular structures that produce energy. But when researchers did a little snooping around the rats’ brains, they found 36 genes that differed between the two groups.
Yes, to a certain extent. Although other similar studies have involved humans, this latest study only tested rats, which aren’t always the best model for humans. Even if these findings do apply to humans, this research is hardly an excuse for anyone to swap a gym routine for an all-day TV marathon. And it definitely doesn’t mean that people who aren’t genetically predisposed to love physical fitness are destined to be out of shape.
But it is a reminder that some people may need a little more incentive to lace up those running sneaks than others. Sometimes that means grabbing a pal who won’t let us ditch our next gym session; other times motivation is all about a solid workout playlist (hey, Beyonce). Research is also increasingly finding that money is a great incentive for weight loss specifically. Ultimately, the key to health and fitness is finding what works for you.