Effect of Shared Environmental Factors on Exercise Behavior from Age 7 to 12 Years

1Department of Biological Psychology, VU University Amsterdam, THE NETHERLANDS
Medicine and science in sports and exercise (Impact Factor: 4.46). 05/2012; 44(10):2025-32. DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31825d358e
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The aim of this study was to investigate the relative influence of genetic and environmental factors on children's leisure time exercise behavior through the classic twin design.
Data were taken from The Netherlands Twin Register. The twins were 7 (n = 3966 subjects), 10 (n = 3562), and 12-yr-olds (n = 8687), with longitudinal data for 27% of the sample. Parents were asked to indicate the children's regular participation in leisure time exercise activities, including frequency and duration. Resemblance between monozygotic and dizygotic twins for weekly MET-hours spent on exercise activities was analyzed as a function of their genetic relatedness.
Average weekly MET-hours increased with age for both boys (age 7 yr: 14.0 (SD = 11.8); age 10 yr: 22.6 (SD = 18.7); age 12 yr: 28.4 (SD = 24.9)) and girls (age 7 yr: 9.7 (SD = 9.5); age 10 yr: 15.3 (SD = 15.1); age 12 yr: 19.3 (SD = 19.8)). Around 13% of boys and girls across all age groups did not participate in any regular leisure time exercise activities. Tracking of exercise behavior from age 7 to 12 yr was modest (0.168 < r < 0.534). For boys, genetic effects accounted for 24% (confidence interval, 18%-30%) of the variance at age 7 yr, 66% (53%-81%) at age 10 yr, and 38% (32%-46%) at age 12 yr. For girls, this was 22% (15%-30%), 16% (9%-24%), and 36% (30%-43%), respectively. Environmental influences shared by children from the same family explained 71%, 25%, and 50% of the variance in boys (age 7, 10, and 12 yr) and 67%, 72%, and 53% in girls. The shared environment influencing exercise behavior was partially different between boys and girls.
Our results stress the important role of shared environment for exercise behavior in young children.

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