Background: Exercise is a reinforcing behavior and finding exercise highly reinforcing is characteristic of habitual exercisers. Genotypes related to dopamine metabolism moderate the reinforcing value of behaviors, but genetic moderators of exercise reinforcement have not been established.

Purpose: Determine whether singular nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that moderate central reward pathways and pain neurotransmission are associated with exercise reinforcement, tolerance for exercise intensity, and usual physical activity.

Methods: Adults (n = 178) were measured for the reinforcing value of exercise relative to sedentary activities (RRVexercise), minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and completed the Preference for and Tolerance of the Intensity of Exercise Questionnaire. Genotyping of 23 SNPs known to influence central dopamine tone, pain, or physical activity was performed. ANOVA tested differences in RRVexercise, tolerance, and MVPA among genotype groups. Linear regression controlling for BMI, sex, and liking of exercise was used to further predict the association of genotype on RRVexercise, tolerance, and MVPA.

Results: Having at least one copy of the G allele for the DRD2/ANKK1 polymorphism (rs1800497) conferred greater RRVexercise. Greater tolerance for exercise intensity was observed among those homozygous for the T allele for the CNR1 polymorphism (rs6454672), had at least one copy of the G allele for the GABRG3 polymorphism (rs8036270), or had at least one copy of the T allele for the LPR polymorphism (rs12405556). Homozygous individuals for the T allele at rs6454672 exhibited greater MVPA.

Conclusion: Similar to other reinforcing behaviors, there is a genetic contribution to exercise reinforcement, tolerance for exercise intensity, and MVPA.

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Notes/Citation Information

Published in Behavioural Brain Research, v. 375, 112148.

© 2020 Published by Elsevier B.V.

© 2020. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/.

The document available for download is the authors' post-peer-review final draft of the article.

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Funding Information

This study was funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, and Project 3062-51000- 051-00D.

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Raw data available upon request to the Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center Data Sharing Committee: phone: 701-795- 8272, fax: 701-795-8230