Exercise changes quality of life even in identical twins

By Dahlia Ghabour • Published: June 29th, 2015
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Everyone’s heard the statement “Exercise changes your life.” But for twins in Finland, the saying actually holds true. The University of Jyvaskyla (You-es-ku-la) studied what happened when the exercise habits of identical twins drastically diverged after leaving home.

Genes affect endurance and health, so working with an identical set of twins helps researchers get a more accurate picture of how exercise impacts health. Previous studies had shown greater health risks for the more sedentary twin, but these studies dealt with older adults. The new study focused on young adults: 10 pairs of identical male twins with different exercise patterns.

This posed a challenge for researchers because many twins have similar exercise patterns, even after years living apart.

Each set of twins was tested for metabolic health and fitness, and their brains were scanned. It turned out that the more sedentary twins had lower endurance levels, higher body fat percentage and signs of insulin resistance. The more active twins had better motor control and coordination.

The twins had remarkably similar diets, so it really did come down to exercise.

The findings indicate a strong link between differences in exercise and the differences in the twins’ bodies — and the changes happened in just a few years.

The findings also point out that genetics do not set your fate in stone when it comes to exercise. It was the twins’ actions that made the biggest difference.

The rest of us can take this study into account, too. Regular workouts can improve your quality of life, and it doesn’t matter how much you have exercised in the past. It’s never too late to make a change. Take small steps toward a healthier life. Science supports you.