Can Exercise Overcome the “Obesity Gene”?

It’s undeniable that our increasingly sedentary, technology- and processed-food-based culture is at the heart of the obesity crisis, but there’s also no denying that some people are genetically predisposed to put on the pounds – and have difficulty losing them – compared to others. Put those circumstances together and you’ve got a recipe for obesity disaster in certain individuals.

But here’s the good news: New research suggests specific kinds of exercise may help combat the “obesity gene” and help with weight loss, even in those predisposed to gain it. Published in PLOS Genetics, the study examined five measures of obesity, including body-mass index (BMI), body-fat percentage waist circumference, hip circumference and waist-to-hip ratio; and how various types of exercise impacted those measures. Researchers constructed “genetic risk scores” for each of the measures, reflecting the potential impact of genetics on each measure.

Among more than 18,000 study participants ages 30-70 who self-reported performing one or more of 18 different types of physical activity on a regular basis, “regular jogging consistently presented the strongest evidence to mitigate the genetic effects on all 5 obesity measures. Moreover, mountain climbing, walking, exercise walking, international standard dancing, and a longer practice of yoga attenuated the genetic effects on BMI. The benefits of regularly performing these 6 kinds of exercise are more impactful in subjects who are more predisposed to obesity.”

Can’t seem to lose the weight (or keep it off)? Talk to your doctor about how these and other exercises can help you get – and stay – on the right track for a lifetime of good health.

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