“Our results reinforce the importance of exercise, but also may explain a mechanism for why it seems to benefit some individuals more than others,” said Stephen Kritchevsky, Ph.D., professor of gerontology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

The study is the first to show that a gene that controls levels of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) in the body may be associated with physical function in older adults. The researchers found that older exercisers who inherited a gene combination associated with the lowest ACE production were 45 percent more likely to develop difficulties with climbing stairs or walking a quarter-mile than exercisers with gene combinations associated with higher levels of ACE.

“Overall, ACE genotype seems to be associated with how well activity helps preserve function,” said Kritchevsky. “This finding may offer new opportunities to explore treatments to help older adults maintain their function.”

The study involves 3,075 well-functioning, community-dwelling adults ages 70 through 79. The current data are from 2,966 participants who were followed for up to 4.1 years. About a third (31.3 percent) of the group was active, burning more than 1,000 calories a week in exercise; the others were inactive. The researchers found that the exercisers were significantly less likely (33 percent) to report mobility problems than the non-exercisers.

The ACE gene combination associated with better function in exercising older adults has been associated with superior muscle strength and power in young elite athletes. The gene that controls ACE production can be inherited in three different combinations. Only about 19 percent of study participants had the combination associated with lower ACE production and did not benefit as much from exercise as others. However, they still did better than those who didn’t exercise.

MEDICA.de; Source: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center