Physical activity and sedentary behavior are key contributors in weight control, both for prevention of weight gain and weight loss/maintenance. In this month’s Obesity, a recent National Institutes of Health (NIH)/NIDDK meeting report outlines evidence and gaps in understanding behavioral and psychological phenotypes that may contribute to differences in physical activity and sedentary behavior. A phenotype refers to a set of observable characteristics that differentiate one person from another and generally results from an interaction between genes and the environment.
The NIH/NIDDK workshop brought together experts in the field of human behavior, behavioral genetics, exercise science, psychology and neuroscience as well as researchers focused on obesity-related physical activity interventions and environmental influences on activity. The purpose of the meeting was to explore the behavioral and psychological phenotyping related to physical activity and sedentary behavior across an individual’s lifespan. The report suggests that identifying such phenotypes could improve treatment matching and inform new targets for tailored innovative, and effective weight management interventions.
Even with the very best exercise, diet and weight loss programs, there are remarkable differences in the responses across individuals. These differences are in part due to individual-level phenotypic differences. TOS spokesperson Tim Church, MD, MPH, PhD, Adjunct professor at Pennington Biomedical, LSU said, “Having a better understanding of the key phenotypic differences and how we can use them to tailor physical activity and weight loss programs has important clinical and public health implications.”
The results of the workshop highlight potential behavioral and psychological phenotypes that influence engagement or lack of engagement in physical activity with particular emphasis on how these may impact prevention and treatment of obesity.