08/07/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Is There A Laziness Gene?

Have you ever wondered why you can't get off the couch and exercise -- despite paying for an expensive gym membership, despite your New Year's resolutions, even despite the doctor's scolding at your last check-up? Turns out that your inertia may be coded right into your genes.

Based on some intriguing, preliminary studies in animals, J. Timothy Lightfoot, a kinesiologist, and his team at University of North Carolina, Charlotte, suggest that genetics may indeed predispose some of us for sloth. Using mice specially bred and selected according to their activity levels, Lightfoot identified 20 different genomic locations that work in tandem to influence activity levels in mice -- specifically, how far the animals will run. Lightfoot's team is the first to identify these genetic areas, and the first to figure out that they function in concert. The researchers say the areas they found on the mouse genome may have analogs in humans, and the UNC team is now gearing up to conduct a similar study in men and women. "We have put forward a fairly complete genomic map of the areas that are associated with regulation of physical activity," says Lightfoot, whose study is published in the current issue of the Journal of Heredity.

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