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Senior fitness: Gene variants may impact exercise benefits for older adults

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According to a press release from the American Physiological Society (APS) on March 14, certain gene variants may have an impact on the benefits older adults receive from exercise. While physical exercise remains the only intervention to date to consistently demonstrate a reduction in age-related physical function declines, these findings could be beneficial in planning more effective individual exercise strategies for older adults.

The study examines how various mutations in the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) gene, which regulates various physiological functions in the body, may also impact seniors' functional responses to exercise. When variances occur in ACE genetic patterns, varying levels of the angiotensin-converting enzyme in the body develop which in turn can influence physiological adaptions. Those with genetic ‘DD’ patterns are associated with higher levels of the enzyme compared to those with an ‘II’ pattern, while those with an ‘ID’ pattern are associated with intermediate levels respectively.

Researchers followed 424 sedentary, mobility-limited seniors aged 70-89 for a year. Participants were randomly placed in one of two groups: a healthy lifestyle education only group, or a physical activity group which focused on strength and balance exercises as well as a walking program.

The researchers then measured the results, comparing the changes in participant walking speed and ability to perform other physical tasks such as getting up from a chair. The results showed that those 'ID' and 'DD' genotype carriers in the physical activity group had greater improvements in walking speed compared to the physical activity group's 'II' genotypes. Interestingly, the 'II' genotypes in the health education group also showed greater improvements in walking speed and lower body performance compared to the II’s in the physical activity group.

While the researchers conclude future studies are needed to provide further data, this current study offers valuable insight to aid in developing more effective interventions for improved physical function and disability prevention among older adults.

Genes may thwart seniors' exercise gains, American Physiological Society Press, March 14, 2014, Contact: Stacy Brooks,,

Genetic influence on exercise-induced changes in physical function among mobility-limited older adults, Thomas W. Buford, Physiological Genomics, Jan. 2014.

Ace Gene, Genetics Home Reference, Published: March 10, 2014