Studies of Twin Responses to Understand Exercise Therapy (STRUETH): Body Composition

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2021 Jan;53(1):58-67. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002461.


Purpose: We studied individual variability in exercise responses in twins. We hypothesized that 1) endurance (END) training would reduce fat mass whereas resistance (RES) training would increase lean mass, 2) individuals who did not respond to one modality would respond to the other, and 3) cross-sectional heritability estimates would be higher than estimates based on training responses.

Methods: DXA was undertaken in 84 same-sex untrained twins (30 monozygotic [MZ], 12 dizygotic [DZ]). Participants underwent 3 months of END and RES training, separated by 3 months washout. Twins trained in pairs.

Results: RES (P < 0.001) and END (P = 0.002) increased lean mass, with a greater change in RES (P < 0.001). Similarly, RES (P = 0.04) and END (P = 0.006) decreased fat mass. Eighty-four percent of subjects responded positively to RES for lean mass and 58% to END (P < 0.001). For fat mass, RES and END induced 56% and 66% responder rates, respectively (P = 0.28). Cross-sectional intraclass correlations, used to assess the similarity in twin responses, were higher for MZ than DZ pairs for all variables. Following training, only MZ pairs were significantly correlated (P < 0.001) for change in lean mass to RES.

Conclusion: To our knowledge, this study is the first to report individual responsiveness in body composition to both RES and END in the same subjects. Although RES and END induced favorable changes in fat mass, RES was superior for lean mass. The frequency of lean mass responders to RES exceeded that for END, whereas response rates for fat mass were similar. Cross-sectional heritability estimates were higher than training response estimates, and shared environment had the largest influence on changes in body composition. This study suggests that exercise professionals should consider modality and environmental factors when optimizing exercise interventions.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adult
  • Body Fat Distribution*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Endurance Training / methods*
  • Energy Intake
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Resistance Training / methods*
  • Twins, Dizygotic* / genetics
  • Twins, Monozygotic* / genetics
  • Young Adult