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Epigenetic Inheritance: How Our Life Choices Could Be Genetically Passed to Our Children

Physical and mental exercise not only benefits you and your brain, but it can also affect the learning ability of offspring—at least in mice. A recent study of mice indicates that parents’ life experiences can impact their children in the future. These parental life experiences can be passed on to their offspring through epigenetic marks on DNA, called epigenetic inheritance.

What is epigenetics?

Epigenetics is the biological mechanism that turns genes on and off without changing the genetic code itself. In effect, epigenetics affects how genes are read by cells. And what’s more, what you eat, where you live, your exercise habits, your aging, and other factors can have an affect on which genes are turned on or off.

Epigenetics and its impact on offspring

This recent study showed that epigenetically modulated microRNAs (which play a role in gene silencing and gene expression)  can be passed from a father’s sperm to his offspring. It’s clear evidence that some epigenetic markers can be passed from one generation to the next. That means a father’s diet could have an epigenetic impact on his child’s mental acuity. Even a father’s anxiety or stress could lay the foundation for a child’s high blood sugar in the future.

Researchers subjected one group of mice to a stimulating environment of mental and physical exercise. When compared to a control group, the stimulated mice had offspring with cognitive improvements similar to their parents.

Of course, further research is needed to understand whether this same phenomenon occurs in humans.

It’s well established the exercising and eating right can improve your health. But now, we may soon discover that it could help your children’s health as well.


Dr. Sonja Stilp delivers innovative, individualized physical medicine and rehabilitation with a focus on spine and sports medicine at RISE.  Dr. Stilp continued to ride her bike during pregnancy with her twin sons;  I wonder if this is the reason they are such great mountain bikers?!  If you want to learn about ways exercise and diet can boost your lifestyle (or your child’s), schedule an appointment to meet with her. Eating smart is just as important as training smart. 



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3 thoughts on “Epigenetic Inheritance: How Our Life Choices Could Be Genetically Passed to Our Children

  1. Excellent article! Thank you for sharing, informing and taking a leadership role in this important field.

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