Physical Activity May Have a Greater Role in Longevity than Genes

March 20, 2023

Summary: There is no doubt that physical activity is associated with longevity, and a sedentary lifestyle is associated with a higher risk of premature death. At the same time, it is also known that some people have better genes and tend to live long even with less physical activity. However, a new study confirms that physical activity is more important than genes. Even people with bad genes can expect to live longer by increasing their physical activity level. Thus, instead of blaming genes, people should get more active.

Numerous studies have confirmed that higher physical activity is associated with better health outcomes and longevity. On the contrary, a sedentary lifestyle means a greater risk of premature death. Also, it leads to serious nervous complications such as sciatica pain and complex regional pain syndrome. That is why many experts are even calling a sedentary lifestyle a new kind of smoking. However, it appears that some people live long, though they do not appear to do much. It seems that some have better genes, ensuring their longevity. 

Therefore, it is pretty logical to ask, what matters more? Genes or physical activity? Most studies seem to suggest that physical activity and lifestyle choices matter more than genes. It appears that even if one is genetically predisposed to specific health conditions, one can still reduce the risk of premature mortality by increasing physical activity levels.

Moreover, there are other factors that must be understood. For example, those who appear to live with better genes are also individuals with healthy family traditions, like choosing the proper diet and staying active. Thus, what may look as hereditary may have more to do with family traditions and lifestyle choices. Moreover, new studies related to epigenetics suggest that physical activity may even help modulate gene expression. So, one cannot change genes, but modulating them through healthy lifestyle choices is possible.

Now a new study published in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity provides further evidence that physical activity has a greater role in longevity than genes. This new study began in 2012 as a part of the Women’s Health Initiative Objective Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Health Study (OPACH). In the study, investigators measured the physical activity of 5,446 women in the US aged 63 and older using a professional-grade accelerometer for eight years, that is, till 2020. In addition, they measured the influence of physical activity level on mortality.

The study found that moderate to vigorous physical activity was associated with much better outcomes and a lower risk of premature death. On the contrary, a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of premature death. In addition, they found that physical activity increased lifespan in women of diverse genetic backgrounds. Moreover, results were not much dissimilar between those genetically predisposed to longevity and others.

Hence, the study could confirm that one can expect to live long even if there are some issues or a family history of certain diseases. For example, suppose a person has a family history of high blood pressure, heart disease, and similar issues. In that case, one can still cut down the risk of premature death through physical activity. It also means that those with good genes and who do not have a family history of issues like heart disease and diabetes may not live long if they choose a sedentary lifestyle. 

Of course, this is not the first study to show that physical activity is good for health. But it is among the most extensive studies showing that physical activity level matters more than genes. It also means that people living with not-so-good genes should stop complaining. Instead, they should stay active. Many people stay inactive during their life, and then they try to blame their genes for their health issues. However, this study shows that people should stop blaming their genes and instead get active to stay healthy and live longer.


To get relief from consistent chronic pain and other issues that pop up due to an inactive lifestyle, it is important to get expert guidance. Padda Institute specializes in managing disorders such as  sciatica pain management and complex regional pain syndrome treatment. Get an appointment today! 

By Gurpreet Singh Padda, MD, MBA, MHP