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Int J Sports Med. 2003 Oct;24(7):499-505.

Factors associated with exercise lifestyle--a study of monozygotic twins.

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  • 1Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Finland.


Regular exercise is widely advocated for a broad range of health issues. Yet, the association of familial factors (i. e. both genetic and childhood environmental factors) and specific environmental factors (not shared by family members) as well as health behavior with lifelong exercise participation is currently poorly understood. A total of 117 monozygotic male twin pairs aged 35 - 69 y (mean age 49 y), recruited from the population-based Finnish Twin Cohort, were studied. A summary outcome exercise variable was created by calculating the mean hours of exercise per week from 18 y of age to present from data provided from a structured interview. Suspected factors associated with exercise were analyzed with linear regression, while pairwise relationships were analysed using polychoric correlations and structural equation modeling. There was substantial familial aggregation in adulthood exercise, accounting for 43 % of all variation in exercise using the LISREL model. Factors associated with enhanced adherence to exercise in adulthood were participation in exercise and competitive sports in adolescence (from age 12 to 18). Education, age, number of chronic diseases, smoking, alcohol use, marital status, number of children and number of changes in residence were not associated with exercise adherence in adulthood. Our results suggest that early childhood environmental factors strongly influence exercise level throughout the lifespan. Therefore, interventions aimed at enhancing lifelong exercise participation may achieve more beneficial long-term results by targeting families and other childhood and adolescent environments.

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