For each copy of the mutated gene, those who exercised had an average BMI that was only 0.17 points higher than teens with no mutations. In comparison, teens who did not exercise for at least 60 minutes daily had a BMI that was 0.65 points higher for each copy of the gene, compared to those with no mutations.
Exercise also helped trim back gene-linked increases in body fat mass and waist circumference, the study found.
Ruiz' advice to teens worried about excessive weight gain? "Be active. Try to do at least 60 minutes of moderate and vigorous physical activity every day -- like playing sports," he said.
Samantha Heller, a Connecticut-based dietitian, nutritionist and exercise physiologist, commented that, "since few of us will ever get our genes tested, the take-home message from this study is that children and adolescents need to be physically active and eat a healthy diet."
While we are stuck with our genetic makeup, our lifestyles can either magnify or minimize many genetic tendencies, Heller said.
"If a person has a gene predisposing them to obesity yet they eat healthfully, exercise regularly and adopt other healthy lifestyle behaviors, they are stacking the deck [in their favor] in maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding chronic diseases," she said.
However, too many youngsters are losing touch with the fundamental joy of engaging in physical activities, Heller added.
"Whether it is a formal team sport or playing tag, playing catch or riding bicycles, the human body is designed to move," she said.
When this natural instinct is muted by spending hours playing computer games, watching TV or sitting around, so too is the body's innate ability to stay healthy, Heller said.
"The cycle of weight gain, sedentary lifestyle and poor diet can be tough to break free from, but it is absolutely doable if the whole family is committed to
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