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Heritability of middle/long distance running ability?


Christopher_Hart
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Hi,

 

I was just wondering, is there any correlation at all between parents' endurance/long distance running capability to their offspring's endurance/long distance running capability?

How much of it is all due to genes and how much due to the environment and epigenetic influences, gut microbiome etc.?

Based on available data, what proportion of elite athletes (i.e. middle/long distance runners specifically) have children who are slow/unathletic in middle-long distance running?

What proportion of elite middle-long distance runners have parents who are unathletic/slow runners?

What can the latest scientific data tell us about the heritability of middle-long distance running?

 

Thanks,

Christopher_Hart

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1 hour ago, Christopher_Hart said:

How much of it is all due to genes and how much due to the environment and epigenetic influences, gut microbiome etc.?

Running, or any other athletic activity, is made up of many components. You inherit genes for minor variations in skeletal structure and musculature, lung capacity and metabolism; maybe even some of the mental proclivity for self-discipline and perseverance. Beyond that, I suspect it's just desire, dedication and drill. A supportive environment and early self-esteem building would help.

1 hour ago, Christopher_Hart said:

What can the latest scientific data tell us about the heritability of middle-long distance running?

Probably less than you hope. Too many variables. You might look at this: https://academic.oup.com/bmb/article/93/1/27/306419

Edited by Peterkin
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7 hours ago, Christopher_Hart said:

Hi,

 

I was just wondering, is there any correlation at all between parents' endurance/long distance running capability to their offspring's endurance/long distance running capability?

How much of it is all due to genes and how much due to the environment and epigenetic influences, gut microbiome etc.?

Based on available data, what proportion of elite athletes (i.e. middle/long distance runners specifically) have children who are slow/unathletic in middle-long distance running?

What proportion of elite middle-long distance runners have parents who are unathletic/slow runners?

What can the latest scientific data tell us about the heritability of middle-long distance running?

 

Thanks,

Christopher_Hart

https://globalsportmatters.com/science/2019/11/01/what-makes-east-africans-so-good-at-distance-running/

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4 hours ago, beecee said:

That doesn’t really address genetics, and some of their variables aren’t independent. Saying how many times some group has won some marathon, and also some other marathon really isn’t new information; the runners are probably largely the same group, and in some cases might be the same people year after year. Dominant athletes are going to dominate, but are outliers and not necessarily representative. That skews the statistics. (It’s like saying Big 10 quarterbacks have won 8 of the last 20 super bowls without mentioning that Tom Brady has 7 of them. It says more about the individual and less about the conference.)

It also only mentions societal and cultural influences in passing. Some countries do well in certain sports because a higher fraction of the population participate and they start young, plus other factors, probably.

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9 minutes ago, swansont said:

It also only mentions societal and cultural influences in passing. Some countries do well in certain sports because a higher fraction of the population participate and they start young, plus other factors, probably.

Exactly! Plus the relative value a culture places on physical activity in general; whether a talent is valued, whether a skill is fostered.

The genetic factor there may be the ethnic groups that have traditionally dominated in the region: both the Massai and Kikuyu peoples tend to long limbs and low body fat ratio - genetic types very well adapted over many thousands of years of migration and nomadic herding to foot travel over long distances. Of course, as people are increasing confined to smaller geographical areas and mingle with other populations, that genetic advantage will fade.  

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There is some genetic effect.  The following is from my own genetic report on the site "23andme":  "Our muscles are made up of two main types of fibers, called slow-twitch and fast-twitch. Fast-twitch fibers allow rapid, forceful muscle contraction — the sort of contraction required for sprinting. Slow-twitch fibers contract more slowly, but they also tire less easily. Endurance athletes tend to have more slow-twitch fibers, while power athletes (including sprinters, throwers, and jumpers) tend to have more fast-twitch fibers — a difference that may reflect both their genetics and their training habits."

My genetics favor slow-twitch--and, while I am a horrible sprinter, in my youth I was a competitive long distance runner.

Obviously there is more to this than genetics (training etc).

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In addition to what OldChemE has said, I remember reading an article ( in a bodybuilding magazine, so I can't vouch for its rigor ) in the 1980s, that Black people ( African descent ) tend to suffer from small calf development. And this was examplified by a cross-section of professional bodybuilders of that period ( again, in no way representative of the general population ).

As human calves and forearms havee higher proportions of slow twitch cells, this would seem counter to OldChemE's observations, as that would make those possessing those genetic markers ( large muscular thighs/underdeveloped calves ) better sprinters than long distance runners.

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Keep in mind that Africa is a large continent, with a large number of very different ethnic groupings. Also that magazine may have been referring to Americans of African descent, the majority of whom came from West central Africa and wouldn't have shared recent common ancestry with the peoples of north-east Africa. But they would, by the 1980's, carry a good many genes from European forebears.

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2 hours ago, Peterkin said:

Keep in mind that Africa is a large continent, with a large number of very different ethnic groupings. Also that magazine may have been referring to Americans of African descent, the majority of whom came from West central Africa and wouldn't have shared recent common ancestry with the peoples of north-east Africa. But they would, by the 1980's, carry a good many genes from European forebears.

The large genetic diversity makes it pretty much useless to talk about an African population (in terms of genetic factors). As a whole, there have of course been attempts to look at genetic factors determining athletic performance. And perhaps unsurprising the results were at best mixed. The overall outcome almost always indicated complex polygenic traits. Whenever a new study comes out there is often a bit of a media hype (usually with titles like:  "are genes responsible for X ?"  or "Effort vs genes"), typically without strong conclusions as the studies mostly find a certain polymorphism more common in a certain group (say swimmer, or marathon runners) but typically it is very unclear what the physiological consequences of these polymorphisms actually are. As others have implied already, training plays a huge role. While it is possible and perhaps even likely that certain combinations of training and genetic background are more likely to have superior results, especially when it comes to elite performance, the margins are so thin that I think a lot of stochastic factors start to play a role (say, injuries in your childhood).

This is perhaps a long-winded way to say I have not by chance come across any studies which have clearly shown genetic factors and how they result in differential marathon performance.

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Here's a by-the-way that's not specifically about running, but shows a very strong genetic component. Have you looked at the top ranking tennis players lately? Have you looked at the most successful American football players and compared them to the darlings of  FIFA? Or the stars of basketball, gymnastics and weight-lifting?  All the international elite of any given competitive sport are of similar size and shape. That's not a coincidence: each sport makes demands on the body; in each one, a particular physical characteristic provides and advantage. Like evolution, international and professional sport selects for greatest fitness. 

That doesn't mean that 99% of the other people with the same gene will ever score a remarkable number of goals or a win a highly publicized race, or that 99 people without the gene can't run and kick very well, though though not quite as well as the one guy with the gene, so they'll never come to public notice.     

Edited by Peterkin
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  • 3 weeks later...

when Ethiopian long distance runners were questioned on their running it was found that they trained in areas of low o2. when they were found to do very well as runners in competitive event the o2 percentages were indeed higher .

now also compare this to say climbing guides for groups who want to climb any of the highest peaks in the world.  with lifelong training at altitudes of low o2 being able to assist weekend climbers also is an advantage for the climbers to rely on. 

also like height in our species , many genes contribute to that mark. so training and genetic predisposition are likely the answer. 

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