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Erin White, Jennifer D. Slane, Kelly L. Klump, S. Alexandra Burt and Jim Pivarnik


Knowing the extent to which genetic and environmental factors influence percent body fatness (%Fat) and physical activity (PA) would be beneficial, since both are tightly correlated with future health outcomes. Thus, the purpose was to evaluate sex differences in genetic and environmental influences on %Fat and physical activity behavior in male and female adolescent twins.


Subjects were adolescent (age range 8.3 to 16.6 yr) twins. %Fat (n = 518 twins) was assessed by bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) and PA (n = 296 twins) was measured using 3-Day PA Recall. Each activity was converted to total MET-minutes. Univariate twin models were used to examine sex differences in genetic and environmental factors influencing %Fat and PA.


%Fat was influenced by genetic effects in both boys and girls (88% and 90%, respectively), with slightly higher heritability estimates for girls. PA was influenced solely by environmental effects for both sexes with higher shared environmental influences in boys (66%) and higher nonshared effects in girls (67%).


When developing interventions to increase PA in adolescents, it is important to consider the environment in which it takes place as it is the primary contributor to PA levels.