The warmer weather isn’t the only reason to turn off the TV and dust off those sneakers. Researchers have found that walking 60 minutes a day cuts the genetic predisposition to obesity by 50 percent.
“In our study, a brisk one-hour daily walk reduced the genetic influence towards obesity, measured by differences in BMI, by half,” said Qibin Qi, PhD, lead author of the study and a post-doctoral research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health. “On the other hand, a sedentary lifestyle marked by watching television four hours a day increased the genetic influence by 50 percent.”
Presented at an American Heart Association conference in San Diego, the study was designed to look at the link between TV watching habits, leisure-associated physical activity, and the effect of genes on obesity.
The study analyzed data on 4,564 men and 7,740 women. The information collected from the study participants included both physical activity and television viewing for the previous two years.
“This is the first study that directly looked at the effect of the sedentary behavior of television watching on the body mass index (BMI) of individuals with a genetic predisposition to obesity,” said Qi. On average, Americans watch TV for up to six hours a day.
In conducting the study, researchers focused on 32 genes that are known to increase BMI. They scored each participant on their genetic predisposition toward obesity, and then calculated differences in BMI associated with physical activity and TV watching.
“Both increasing exercise levels and reducing sedentary behaviors, especially TV watching, independently may mitigate the genetic predisposition to increased BMI,” the researchers concluded.
This isn’t the first study to link obesity genes and exercise. In a 2011 report in the PLoS Medicine journal, British scientists at the Institute of Metabolic Science found that 30 minutes of physical activity, five days per week, can counter obesity genes.