Confession: I am kind of a couch potato.
Yes, I know, I’m a health and fitness blogger—shouldn’t I be out and about every day, happily sweating from whatever new fitness fad is out there? Sure, and I do, for the most part. But otherwise, you’ll likely find me on my couch, in my sweatpants, binge-watching TV shows on Netflix.
Let me be clear: I don’t hate exercising. But other couch potatoes—though few and far between in Washington—do. In fact, new research shows that some people may have certain genetic traits that predispose them to being less motivated to exercise. In other words, if dragging yourself to the gym is like pulling teeth no matter how in shape you are, your genes could be to blame.
Researchers at the University of Missouri set out to determine whether some people are genetically predisposed to inactivity by testing rats’ willingness to run on their wheels. For six days, they monitored the rats as they spun around and around.
They then bred the rats who ran more often with one another and did the same with the “couch potato” rats. This breeding process was repeated ten times.
Ultimately, researchers found that all ten generations of “super runner” rats chose to run ten times more than the couch potato rats.
But why? After analyzing all of the rats’ body compositions and levels of mitochondria (organisms where respiration and energy production occur), researchers discovered genetic differences—almost 40 of them—between the two types of rats.
“Out of more than 17,000 different genes in one part of the brain, we identified 36 genes that may play a role in predisposition to physical activity,” said researcher Michael Roberts in a statement.
The findings could be helpful in the fight against obesity, researchers said. “It would be very useful to know if a person is genetically predisposed to having a lack of motivation to exercise, because that could potentially make them more likely to grow obese.”
The full study was published in the American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology.