We all know that regular exercise has endless benefits like building a healthy immune system and a stronger heart. Now, let’s dig a little deeper and look at how exercise improves our body at a cellular level. Is it true that it can change our very own genes?
First off, we need to consider that genes are never fixed. They are constantly changing to help the body adapt, depending on the type of stimulation they receive from the brain. The messages sent from the brain set off various physiological movements in the body. Almost like the butterflies and hammering heartbeat you experience when receiving a text from your crush.
“Methylation” describes how our genes are affected. Simply put, methylation is a process that either makes it easier or more difficult for the gene molecules to receive and respond to the messages from the brain. Think of it like a phone call breaking up during a conversation with your boy due to poor reception.
This process has no effect on the structure of the gene molecules themselves but rather modifies their behavior. And it is all consequential to one’s lifestyle choices and daily habits. Diet and exercise seem to be dominating factors to the nature of gene methylation and the resulting genetic patterns. For example, one’s diet may be the difference in developing diabetes or other metabolic diseases.
Continued on the next page…
Due to a shallow understanding of how physical activity affects the methylation of genes, scientists have recently decided to delve deeper into the subject. The results were fascinating, opening way for further investigations.
The first discovery scientists concluded was the immense degree to which exercise improves blood pressure, cholesterol profiles, and endurance. Digging deeper, they found how exercise altered the methylation pattern of many of the genes in the subject’s fat cells. This was consequentially the biggest change in the body and the genes that showed the greatest change in methylation. These were the very same genes responsible for fat storage and the potential risk of developing diabetes or obesity. The lifestyle you choose is the greatest influence on these temperamental genes.
“Our data suggest that exercise may affect the risk for Type 2 diabetes and obesity by changing DNA methylation of those genes,” says Charlotte Ling, an associate professor at Lund University and senior author of the study.
Continued on the next page…
Secondly, studies found that exercise has a similarly immense impact on DNA methylation. In fact, the impact is so profound, the difference is measurable after a single workout. It’s like the impression of the very first date. Does it open the way for a future or does it increase your blocked caller list?
Some of the genes that are affected the most in this process are the very genes linked to the body’s metabolism. Again, by altering these genes through methylation, one can prevent diabetes and obesity. What’s more interesting is that the changes due to methylation were more drastic in those who took part in more vigorous exercise than those who exercised in a more comfortable manner. This is like the difference between your date taking you out for sushi or MacDonald’s. Clearly, one will make a better impression than the other (unless you REALLY like soggy cheeseburgers).
Although the methylation process is a lot more complex than I have explained and there is still much more investigation to be done on this phenomenon, what scientists have discovered so far is very clear: Exercise can alter the body’s very genetic behavior of fat and muscles cells. This is the adaption method of the body to exercise, and it is immensely beneficial to our health. Whether these genetic changes remain after one stops exercising has not yet been tested. Additionally, scientists are unsure if these changes pass on to the next generation. However, it is very apparent that exercise is beneficial to our health right down to the level of our DNA. Is that not a good enough reason to get you moving?