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Do Genetics Or Physical Activity Play A Bigger Role In Longevity?

Health Digest logo: MainLogo Health Digest 2022-09-22 Brynna Standen
side view of grandfather, father, son © fizkes/Shutterstock side view of grandfather, father, son

When it comes to our individual traits and behaviors, is nature or nurture most influential? Francis Galton, polymath and cousin to Charles Darwin, is credited with being the first to pose the age-old question -- yet the idea was toyed with long before in Shakespeare's comedy "The Tempest" (per Eugenics Archive). And before that, it could be seen in the opposing views of Greek Philosophers Plato and Aristotle (per New Scientist). It's a question that's been mulled over by many of the greatest minds, and it's still being examined today.

In a poll conducted for Axios, seven out of 10 men -- and nearly 60% of women -- said that they're interested in living longer than their current life expectancy, given that their health holds up. The pursuit of longevity has become not only a motivator but a massive industry. The anti-aging market currently rakes in $59.1 billion annually, a number that is expected to reach $88.1 billion by the year 2028 (per Globe Newswire). With so much of our attention aimed at living a long and healthy life, it begs the question: Does our lifestyle or the genes we've inherited play a bigger role in whether or not we live longer?

Good Genes Or Good Work?

older woman exercises with weights © tairome/Shutterstock older woman exercises with weights

When the news features a 101-year-old woman who swears the secret to her longevity is laughter, cigarettes, and fried chicken, the immediate thought that comes to mind is probably, "Wow, good genes." However, a 2016 study published in Immunity and Aging found that just 25% of the variation in human longevity can be credited to genetic factors. It's not so cut and dry, though. Researchers suggest that epigenetic modification plays an essential role in the question of longevity. Epigenetics is the study of how our behaviors affect the way our genes express themselves – quite literally turning certain genes "on" or "off" (per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The study reports that while some lucky people can simply hit the genetic lottery, the rest of us can attain similar results through our lifestyle choices.

This theory is further evidenced by a 2022 study published in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity which found that even those with a genetic predisposition for longevity had a high risk of health issues when they participated in a sedentary lifestyle. The findings suggest the opposite is also true, and that people without genes that point to a longer life could attain one through physical activity and a healthy lifestyle.

So, if you needed a sign that it's time for a Hot Girl Walk, this is it! A confidence boost and a longer life are just a walk away.

Read this next: Health-Minded Habits That Aren't Diet Or Exercise

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