How does your body respond to exercise? It’s in your genes

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Can genetics and exercise really be linked? With regards to exercise, the answer is an undoubtedly “yes.” Exercise has a direct relationship with genetics. Although you may not have inherited certain physical characteristics such as large muscles from your father or uncontrollable leg strength from your mother, exercise can still strongly affect your exercise response.

How does this happen? The answer is simple: exercise works your body. When you exercise, it forces your body to adapt by breaking down muscle tissue, increasing metabolism, and generally working out the entire body for an extended period of time. During this “exercise response,” the muscles will actually decrease in size and number. In order to continue exercising after the exercise response has ended, your body must repair the muscle tissue that has been torn down and rebuild it in its new, larger form. As mentioned, genetics do play a part in how quickly or slowly this “rebound” response will take place. Additionally, exercise hormones, which are secreted by the pituitary gland and adrenal glands, play a role in how quickly the exercise response takes place. For example, during puberty and young adulthood, the gonadotropins produced by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland are responsible for the growth and maintenance of muscle and bone mass, respectively.

But, beyond these generalizations, the actual exercise response depends on specific genes that control many processes in the body. Exercise can activate these genes in the genes that are responsible for causing increased levels of adrenaline and nutrients to the cells and tissues throughout the body.

The new insights into exercise and genetics:

A systematic review of more than 20 studies has now quantified the role genes play in how effectively our bodies respond to different kinds of exercise. The study found genes influence outcomes more prominently in muscle training exercises and propose in the future it could be possible to personalize exercise programs to individual genetic profiles.

“We know that exercise is good for us, but we all improve at different rates, even when following identical training regimes,” says lead author on the new study Henry Chung, from Anglia Ruskin University. “This means there are other factors at play.”

Study Highlights: 

  • Systematic review and meta-analyses included 24 studies
  • The 24 studies consisted of over 3,ooo study subjects
  • 3 exercises were studied:
    • Cardiovascular
    • Muscle training
    • Anaerobic power

Study Results:

“Our study found 13 genes that have a role in exercise outcomes, and we found that specific alleles contained within these genes are more suited to certain aspects of fitness,” explains Chung. “For example, with repetition exercises designed to boost muscular strength, genetic differences explained 72% of the variation in outcomes between people following the same training.”

  • Genetics were found to have the largest impact on muscle training outcomes
  • Genetic influences on Cardiovascular exercise outcomes was estimated at 44%
  • Anaerobic exercise (such as short burst training) was only estimated to have genetic influences of 10%, though research notes the low effect of genes on anaerobic exercise outcomes may be due to incorrect or inconsistent methods of measuring anaerobic power in prior studies.

Real-World Impact:

“One-size-doesn’t-fit-all”, generic exercise programs could have little value moving forward, as researchers hope to propose exercise programs that can be personalized on an individual’s genetic profile.

“Because everyone’s genetic make-up is different, our bodies respond slightly differently to the same exercises,” Chung says. “Therefore, it should be possible to improve the effectiveness of an exercise regime by identifying someone’s genotype and then tailoring a specific training program just for them. This could particularly benefit those who need to see improvements in a short period of time, such as hospital patients, or elite sportspeople, where marginal improvements could mean the difference between success and failure.”

What does this mean for you and your family? 

Vita Medical Solutions offers a variety of genetic tests including a Cardiovascular Genetic Test and DNA Diet and Healthy Weight Test.

The Cardio Tests tests for genetic mutations associated with inherited cardiovascular diseases This type of testing presents an in-depth look at an individual’s increased risk for various cardiac conditions such as:

Heart Disease

Dreading the scales? Tired of dieting and getting nowhere? Believe it or not, genetics and your weight go hand in hand! The DNA Diet and Healthy Weight Test can help you understand why you can’t keep off those extra pounds, providing you the personalized nutrition and fitness recommendations you need to get your weight to budge – and keep it off. Using this DNA test for your weight management can help you lose more weight!

Patients have different reasons for being tested or declining testing. For many, it is important to know whether a disease can be prevented or treated if a test is positive. Genetic test results might help a person make life decisions, such as family planning or insurance coverage. Your doctor and genetic counselor can provide information about the pros and cons of testing.

Are you a Candidate for Genetic Testing: 

To help assess whether you may benefit and from genetic testing, take our 1-minute assessment at: 

Call us 1.800.590.9292 (toll free) or email at [email protected]

Test. Know. Educate. Advocate.


For more information and to read the full article:

The new study was published in the journal PLOS One.

Source: Anglia Ruskin University


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