Genetic variants related to physical activity or sedentary behaviour: a systematic review
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionInternational Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2021, 18 (15), . https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-020-01077-5
Background Research shows that part of the variation in physical activity and sedentary behaviour may be explained by genetic factors. Identifying genetic variants associated with physical activity and sedentary behaviour can improve causal inference in physical activity research. The aim of this systematic review was to provide an updated overview of the evidence of genetic variants associated with physical activity or sedentary behaviour. Methods We performed systematic literature searches in PubMed and Embase for studies published from 1990 to April 2020 using keywords relating to “physical activity”, “exercise”, “sedentariness” and “genetics”. Physical activity phenotypes were either based on self-report (e.g., questionnaires, diaries) or objective measures (e.g., accelerometry, pedometer). We considered original studies aiming to i) identify new genetic variants associated with physical activity or sedentary behaviour (i.e., genome wide association studies [GWAS]), or ii) assess the association between known genetic variants and physical activity or sedentary behaviour (i.e., candidate gene studies). Study selection, data extraction, and critical appraisal were carried out by independent researchers, and risk of bias and methodological quality was assessed for all included studies. Results Fifty-four out of 5420 identified records met the inclusion criteria. Six of the included studies were GWAS, whereas 48 used a candidate gene approach. Only one GWAS and three candidate gene studies were considered high-quality. The six GWAS discovered up to 10 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with physical activity or sedentariness that reached genome-wide significance. In total, the candidate gene studies reported 30 different genes that were associated (p < 0.05) with physical activity or sedentary behaviour. SNPs in or close to nine candidate genes were associated with physical activity or sedentary behaviour in more than one study. Conclusion GWAS have reported up to 10 loci associated with physical activity or sedentary behaviour. Candidate gene studies have pointed to some interesting genetic variants, but few have been replicated. Our review highlights the need for high-quality GWAS in large population-based samples, and with objectively assessed phenotypes, in order to establish robust genetic instruments for physical activity and sedentary behaviour. Furthermore, consistent replications in GWAS are needed to improve credibility of genetic variants.