Is laziness in YOUR DNA?

Is laziness in YOUR DNA? How much time you spend sitting, sleeping and moving is partly determined by your genes, find scientists

  • Researchers found 14 genes which appear directly linked to activity levels
  • They say DNA could have some influence over how much exercise people do
  • Understanding inactivity could reveal links to heart disease and brain problems 

It can be difficult to think of good excuses to avoid the gym – but now you can blame it on your DNA.

Scientists who analysed data of more than 90,000 people now say genetics could be partly to blame for your laziness. 

Seven genes have been newly linked to physical inactivity by researchers at Oxford University, who compared the DNA and activity levels of people in Britain.

They say the links don’t let people off the hook for skipping the gym, but could go towards a better understanding of fitness, sleep and health problems.

Oxford University researchers used data from activity monitors on the wrists of more than 91,000 participants to create an accurate picture of how active they are in day-to-day life and compared this with their DNA to see if there was a link between genetics and activity (pictured: an example of one participant’s activity)

The researchers measured the time sent sitting, sleeping and moving around using activity monitors worn on the wrists of people who also gave their DNA.

Comparing the two allowed them to develop an accurate picture of how active the 91,105 people were in their day-to-day lives. 

They found 14 genes – sections of DNA which instruct the body to act in a certain way – which appeared directly linked to how physically active someone was.

Half the genes had never been seen to act this way before by scientists.

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And studying the DNA could offer new insight into, for example, whether genes make people obese and therefore inactive, or inactive which then leads to obesity.

‘How and why we move isn’t all about genes,’ said Dr Aiden Doherty, who led the study.

‘But understanding the role genes play will help improve our understanding of the causes and consequences of physical inactivity.’


Four in ten British women are putting their health at risk by failing to do enough exercise, a major report revealed in September.

The UK is 123rd out of 168 countries in a league table of physical activity, with 36 per cent of British adults failing to hit exercise targets. That compares to the global average of 27 per cent.

Forty per cent of women and 32 per cent of men in the UK fail to do enough physical activity to stay healthy, according to the World Health Organisation.  

Experts fear a growing crisis in inactive lifestyles is putting millions of Britons at risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. 

Steven Ward, of the UK Active organisation, said: ‘These figures are a damning indictment of our nation’s health, with the UK lagging behind much of the rest of the world for activity levels. 

‘Physical inactivity is the cause of 37,000 premature deaths in the UK each year and costs our economy an estimated £20billion. This should be seen as a national disgrace.’ 

Physical inactivity is a growing public health problem because people’s sedentary lifestyles increase the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Recent Sport England data has shown only around one in six English children do the hour-a-day of exercise recommended by the NHS.

And 40 per cent of British women don’t do enough exercise to keep themselves healthy, according to the World Health Organization. Similar figures exist for men.

While in the US, some studies have estimated that only a fifth of adults are doing the recommended amount of exercise each day. 

Health officials advise that adults take part in 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week, such as cycling, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, such as running. 

This should be bolstered with strength exercises on at least two days a week, in attempt to keep all the major muscles healthy.  

As well as its direct health effects, being inactive can also stop people sleeping properly, increasing their risk of psychiatric disorders and heart problems.

The study also revealed an overlap between physical activity genes and those which have links to neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Professor Michael Holmes added: ‘This provides scientists with a wonderful opportunity to learn much more about how genes and environment interact in our daily lives, causing us to move as we do, and possibly putting us at increased risk of disease.

‘For instance, it might help us determine whether inactivity is a cause or a consequence of obesity.’

The research used data from the UK Biobank, a collection of data from half a million people across the country to be used by health researchers.

To test how accurately they were recording activity, 200 of the participants wore body cameras for two days, to be studied alongside the wrist-worn monitors. 

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