A recent paper in the journal “Human Kinetics” shows that the ratio between physical activity and sedentary activity has a greater impact on lifespan and healthspan than our genetic make-up.

Shakespeare once wrote “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

The authors of the paper point out that a sort of layman’s understanding of genetics and their importance in human health and wellbeing is a poor marker for the truth.

They cite studies which show that genes related to physical fitness had no bearing on the normal association between physical activity and coronary artery disease, and another that showed relationships between physical activity and cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s were not influenced by a person’s APOE-4 status – APOE-4 being a genetic mutation that is known to be commonly present in Alzheimer’s patients.

Perhaps with the advent of gene-modification technology like CRISPR, and the greatly reduced cost of doing genetic analysis along with the extension of this technology to the general population for familial history through products like 23 and Me or Prometheus, more people are spending more time focusing on their genes as a kind of Magic 8 Ball.

It’s not uncommon to hear people blame “bad genes” for any combination or number of health disruptions, but evidence is beginning to show that, as Shakespeare wrote, the fault is in ourselves, not our stars.

However a new study conducted with 5,446 older women, separated them into three groups relative to what was termed their genetic risk factor (or GRS), and measured a small selection of single-nucleotide polymorphisms that are well-known to affect longevity.

The study boasted “a large, diverse, and well-characterised cohort of older women across the United States with long-term follow-up,” said the authors.

And what they found conclusively, was that: “among older women, higher accelerometer-measured light [physical activity] was associated with lower risk of mortality, and higher accelerometer-measured [sedentary behaviour] was associated with a higher risk of mortality during an average follow-up of 6.1 years,” and that “findings were consistent across categories of a GRS for longevity.”

The authors then highlighted the necessity for communicating the importance of physical activity to older women.