Purpose: A twin design was used to test whether the association between exercise behavior and heart rate and the association between exercise behavior and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) derive from a common genetic factor. Methods: Data were available from 157 adolescent (aged 13-22) and 208 middle-aged twin pairs (aged 35-62), divided into five sex by zygosity groups (male and female monozygotic twin pairs, and dizygotic twin pairs of same or opposite sex). Exercise behavior was assessed as the average weekly METs spent on sports activities or other vigorous activities in leisure time (sportMETS) in the last 3 months. RSA and heart period (HP) were assessed in the time domain from the combined ECG and respiration signals. Results: Heritability estimates were 16% and 29% for RSA, 64% and 68% for HP, and 79% and 41% for sportMETS in young and middle-aged twins, respectively. A significant association was found between RSA and sportMETS (0.17) in the adolescent twins that derived entirely from a common genetic factor. No association was found between sportMETS and RSA in the older twins. A significant association was found between HP and sportMETS in both adolescent (0.35) and middle-aged (0.18) twins. A large contribution of common genetic factors to these associations was found amounting to 84% and 88% in the young and middle-aged twins, respectively. Conclusions: Although the results of this study do not preclude causal effects of exercise on RSA and heart rate, they show that the association between exercise and these cardiovascular risk factors largely derives from a common genetic factor.
|Journal||Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise|
|Publication status||Published - 2003|