Is Exercise in Your DNA?
If you’re exercising, you’re altering the “epigenetic pattern” of your genes. And that’s a good thing, because some of those genes dictate how you store fat. That’s according to new research from Lund University, in Sweden. Even small amounts of exercise can have an impact on body fat storage, say the researchers. Although our genes are inherited, and cannot be changed, they possess virtual switches (technically, chemical entities called methyl groups), which allow them to be turned on or off. The new science of epigenetics concerns itself with the implications of this genetic flexibility.
Exercise is among a number of factors that have been identified that can have a positive impact on a person’s epigenetic expression. To test the effect of exercise on genes related to obesity, diabetes and other conditions, the researchers recruited subjects who were slightly overweight, but healthy, albeit sedentary. The subjects were assigned to engage in spinning and aerobics classes, three time a week. Even subjects who did just under two sessions per week experienced changes in genes known to influence things like obesity and the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Most telling is the fact that the genetic switches were thrown in fat cells. These genes were also shown to influence the ways that these fat cells metabolize fat. The implication was that exercise not only fights fat by making you burn more calories, but it also discourages new fat cells from growing. Perhaps it will help to keep that in mind the next time you debate hitting the gym or flopping on the couch.
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Tina Rönn, Petr Volkov, Cajsa Davegårdh, Tasnim Dayeh, Elin Hall, Anders H. Olsson, Emma Nilsson, Åsa Tornberg, Marloes Dekker Nitert, Karl-Fredrik Eriksson, Helena A. Jones, Leif Groop, Charlotte Ling. A Six Months Exercise Intervention Influences the Genome-wide DNA Methylation Pattern in Human Adipose Tissue. PLoS Genetics, 2013; 9 (6): e1003572 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1003572