WEDNESDAY, March 14 (HealthDay News) -- People who walk briskly an hour a day could beat back a genetic predisposition to be overweight, compared to those who plant themselves in front of the TV, new research suggests.
The findings don't prove that the exercise is the specific factor that makes a difference, because it's possible that something else could explain why those who walked were thinner, the researchers stressed. Also, the difference would amount to less than a pound for many people.
Still, "the message is that while we cannot change genes, we can do something to change the influence of genes by increasing physical activity and reducing sedentary behavior," said study author Qibin Qi, a research fellow with the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Research has suggested that inherited traits may be responsible for 50 percent of obesity cases, Qi said. As scientists study what makes people fat from a biological point of view, one of the big issues is this: How can you turn back a genetic tide that may make you more likely to put on pounds just because you were born to a specific set of parents?
In the new study, Qi and colleagues tried to tease out an answer. They came up with one, although it has caveats.
The researchers analyzed the results of two studies that tracked about 7,700 female and 4,600 male health professionals. The studies included data about how much time the people spent watching TV and walking in the two years prior to their weight being measured.
The researchers looked at a measurement called body-mass index (BMI) that analyzes whether a person's height and weight are proportional. The formula is kilograms/meter squared (kg/m-squared).
Genes that have been linked to obesity boosted weight by 0.13 kg/m-squared.
Those who briskly walked an hour a day had a 0.06 kg/m-squared decrease in the geneti
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