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Physical activity and sleep duration are established risk factors for many diseases, but their aetiology is poorly understood, partly due to relying on self-reported evidence. Here we report a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of device-measured physical activity and sleep duration in 91,105 UK Biobank participants, finding 14 significant loci (7 novel). These loci account for 0.06% of activity and 0.39% of sleep duration variation. Genome-wide estimates of ~ 15% phenotypic variation indicate high polygenicity. Heritability is higher in women than men for overall activity (23 vs. 20%, p = 1.5 × 10-4) and sedentary behaviours (18 vs. 15%, p = 9.7 × 10-4). Heritability partitioning, enrichment and pathway analyses indicate the central nervous system plays a role in activity behaviours. Two-sample Mendelian randomisation suggests that increased activity might causally lower diastolic blood pressure (beta mmHg/SD: -0.91, SE = 0.18, p = 8.2 × 10-7), and odds of hypertension (Odds ratio/SD: 0.84, SE = 0.03, p = 4.9 × 10-8). Our results advocate the value of physical activity for reducing blood pressure.

Original publication




Journal article


Nature communications

Publication Date





Big Data Institute, Li Ka Shing Centre for Health Information and Discovery, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX3 7LF, UK.


Humans, Exercise, Sleep, Sex Factors, Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide, Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Middle Aged, Female, Male, Genome-Wide Association Study, Young Adult, Genetic Loci, Accelerometry