PhD defence: Sannija Goleva-Fjellet

Sannija Goleva-Fjellet from USN’s PhD program in Ecology will defend her thesis for the degree of PhD: "The effect of selected genetic variants, age, sex and training methods on physical activity, capability and trainability".

12 Feb

Practical information

  • Date: 12. February 2021
  • Time: 11.00 - 15.00
  • Location:
  • Download calendar file

    Both the trial lecture and the defence will be held on Zoom (link will be activated when dissertation starts), but it is possible to attend at campus Bø.

    Follow the dissertation on Zoom.

    Meeting ID: 610 5150 0617

    Password: 720089


    11.00: Trial lecture: "Genetic testing in predicting sport performance"

    12.15: Public defence: Sannija Goleva-Fjellet defends her PhD thesis "The effect of selected genetic variants, age, sex and training methods on physical activity, capability and trainability"

    Evaluation Committee

    • Associate Professor Martin Mooses, University of Tartu, Estonia
    • Associate Professor Runar Jacobsen Unhjem, Nord University
    • Dr. Helga Veronica Tinnesand, Department of Natural Sciences and Environmental Health, USN

    Leader of the defence

    • Professor Andrew Jenkins, Department of Natural Sciences and Environmental Health, USN

    Main supervisor

    • Associate Professor Mona Sæbø, Department of Natural Sciences and Environmental Health, USN


    • Associate Professor Øyvind Støren, Department of Sports, Physical Education and Outdoor Studies, USN



Sannija Goleva-FjelletMost of us, if not all, have noticed that some people are more physically active than others. Also, some are better at some kind of sports or exercise, but less so – at other types. Why is it so? Is it nature, or is it nurture? We, humans, are more than 99% genetically identical to each other meaning that under than 1% of our DNA sequence contribute to the differences between us.

Physical activity levels, muscle strength as well as athletic performance are complex traits that are determined by many factors, including genetics, age and gender. Through two different projects, Sannija Goleva-Fjellet and colleagues investigated what role several common genetic variants, age and gender play in determining physical activity levels, and muscle strength and its trainability among the general population. In one of the projects, the “Leg-press” study, participants aged 20 to 70 and above took part in an 8-week maximal strength-training intervention using the leg-press machine. In the third project, well-trained cross-country skiers were followed and tested over 6 months. The aim was to study how training, gender, age and selected genetic variants influenced a number of physiological and endurance performance variables.

The results showed that genetic variants appear to play a role in determining the physical activity levels as well as muscle strength in the general population. Also, several of the genetic variants likely influenced several of the measured strength and endurance variables among the cross-country skiers. It was also found that, unsurprisingly, age and gender had an impact on both maximal strength and endurance performance. However, age or gender did not seem to impact the trainability of maximal strength or endurance. An important take-home message from the “Leg-press” study is that maximal strength training is an effective way to counteract the age-related decline in muscle strength, and can therefore be recommended to individuals of all ages.