The effects of parental education on exercise behavior in childhood and youth: a study in Dutch and Finnish twins

C. Huppertz*, M. Bartels, E. J.C. de Geus, C. E.M. van Beijsterveldt, R. J. Rose, J. Kaprio, K. Silventoinen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Twin studies have estimated the relative contribution of genes and the environment to variance in exercise behavior and it is known that parental education positively affects exercise levels. This study investigates the role of parental education as a potential modifier of variance in exercise behavior from age 7 to 18 years. The study is based on large datasets from the Netherlands Twin Register (NTR: N = 24 874 twins; surveys around the ages of 7, 10, 12, 14, 16 and 18 years) and two Finnish twin cohorts (FinnTwin12: N = 4399; 12, 14 and 17 years; FinnTwin16: N = 4648; 16, 17 and 18 years). Regular participation in moderate-to-vigorous exercise activities during leisure time was assessed by survey. Parental education was dichotomized (“both parents with a low education” vs “at least one parent with a high education”). The mean in exercise behavior tended to be higher and the variance tended to be lower in children of high educated parents. Evidence for gene-by-environment interaction was weak. To develop successful interventions that specifically target children of low educated parents, the mechanisms causing the mean and variance differences between the two groups should be better understood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1143-1156
Number of pages14
JournalScandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017

Cite this