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Genetics of somatotype and physical fitness in children and adolescents

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

OBJECTIVES: To analyze the influence of genetic and environmental factors on the variation in somatotype, physical fitness, and their mutual associations. METHODS: Twins from 214 pairs (87 monozygotic) of the Autonomous Region of Madeira, Portugal, from 3 to 18 years of age (51% girls) were assessed in anthropometry and physical fitness tests. We estimated endomorphy, mesomorphy, and ectomorphy based on anthropometric measures and physical fitness using the Eurofit test battery. Two age categories were analyzed: children (3-11 years) and adolescents (12-18 years). Genetic and environmental variations were estimated using quantitative genetic twin modeling. RESULTS: No genetic sex differences were found, thus boys and girls were pooled in all genetic analyses. Heritability estimates were high for somatotype (a2  = 0.80-0.93), physical fitness traits (a2  = 0.67-0.83), and largely similar in children and adolescents. Positive correlations were found for ectomorphy with motor ability and cardiorespiratory endurance as well as for endomorphy and mesomorphy with muscular strength (r = 0.25-0.37). In contrast, negative associations were found for ectomorphy with muscular strength, as well as for endomorphy and mesomorphy with motor ability and cardiorespiratory endurance (-0.46 to -0.26). Twin modeling indicated that these associations were explained mostly by genetic factors in common to the two associated traits (84% or more). CONCLUSIONS: Associations between somatotype and physical fitness tests are mainly explained by common genetic background in children and adolescents. Therefore, interventions in youth should consider that a child's performance in physical fitness tests partly reflects their inherited physique.
Journal: American Journal of Human Biology
ISSN: 1042-0533
Issue: 3
Volume: 33