The study of identical twins can produce some interesting information. Two people with the same genetic make-up are raised in the same environment, so the nature and nurture variables are consistent. You eliminate the “I got Dad’s fat genes” argument, and to a lesser extent, the “Mom liked you best” complaint. So, if one twin maintains a habit of exercise and the other is sedentary, what happens? A recent study from Finland has produced some surprising information.
As expected, nearly all physiological parameters– insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, body composition– were better in the active twin. The part of the study that was most interesting for me was the difference in their brains. The active twin had more grey matter than his sedentary counterpart, especially in the area of the brain involved in motor control and coordination. A growing body of research has demonstrated that as our movement skills deteriorate our brains show equivalent signs of degeneration. I believe the greatest benefit of a consistent habit of exercise is the development of better brain health.
The other take home message of the FinnTwin study is that genetics and environment are not destiny. The habit of exercise taken up by one twin produced profound physiological changes. Genetics and environment play a role, but exercise still has an enormous impact.
Please take the time to read the New York Times article by Gretchen Reynolds, “One Twin Exercises, the Other Doesn’t.”
To read the article, click on the link below:
-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS