Mother Magazine Wired Cover

February 1, 1997

Athletic Ability Predestined by Genes

ByLaurie Kobliska, Editor

STOCKTON DESK - If you or your spouse were not athletic in your youth it could mean that your children will miss the boat too. If you are uncoordinated, heredity does play a part in determining physical athleticism.

In a recent study, researchers found that fitness scores on such tasks as arm strength, jumping ability and aerobic capacity were remarkably similar between parent and child.

Genes determine a level of fitness which you can expect yourself to fit into according to Hermine H. Maes, a Belgian geneticist "If you want to be a top athlete, for instance, you had better have a pretty good set of genes."

This research only predicts the probability that a child will be predisposed to a particular physical level. We can, as parents, still promote fitness and athletic desire in our children even if they find soccer, softball, ballet or even P.E. class difficult and frustrating.

According to Maes, "Not all our genes are expressed at every age. With age, different genes might become expressed and influence fitness and other traits." This explains why all unathletic children won't necessarily be that way. The child who learns skills and works at physical fitness may find herself superbly fit and a top athlete by 17.

"Genetic factors are not stable. You can't say: 'It's in the genes so I can't do anything about it,' " she says.

Being fit is always healthy, and promotes self-esteem and if genes play a huge role, families can still encourage their young children to participate in sports.

Many children may drop out frustrated and embarrassed by their lack of ability, but parents also play an important part with encouragement and positive reinforcement.

Another study by researchers at Northern Kentucky University highlighted the problem of expecting too much from unathletic children. Almost half of 1,150 school-aged children tested couldn't meet the lowest skill levels for such basic tasks as throwing, catching, kicking or hitting a ball--activities that one might expect children to perform naturally.

We can still help our children to develop skills that contribute to being fit. However, children are often thrown into sports without any basic understanding of the skills required.

Unathletic parents who were never exposed to sports or fitness activities lack the ability to teach their children. And proper training in the basic skills are important in children who are, by heredity, unathletic.

As parents ,we should teach our children basic fitness skills early and be active ourselves and set the example .

If a child has fun playing a sport, they will often continue playing it throughout life. They can learn to love the feeling of being in control of their bodies, of being active and fit.


Mother Magazine Wired is a copyright of Mother Magazine 1996.
Other trademarks property of their respective holders.