According to New Studies, Exercise Changes Your DNA
We've known for years that exercise increases overall functionality and lowers the risk of disease in the body. However, certain details about how exercise leads to a healthier body have remained a mystery. A recent New York Times article shed some light on scientific findings concerning the crossroads of exercise and epigenetics.
The human body has the remarkable ability to revise it's genetic behavior, and our genes are constantly responding to the body's biochemical signals. Depending largely on our habits, certain genes may become more active, while others take a back seat.
In an epigenetics study published this past December, scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm engaged 23 men and women in physical activities that isolated just one leg. Participants bicycled on that leg for 45 minutes, 4 times per week for 3 months. Obviously, the active leg slowly began to show more power than the other. But what interested researchers were the changes within the DNA of the exercised leg.
New methylation patterns were found on over 5,000 sites on the muscle genomes of the active leg. What is methylation? Simply speaking, it's a process in which clusters of atoms attach to the outside of a gene, making that gene more or less receptive of the body's various biochemical signals. Most of the genes that were observed to undergo new methylation play important roles in the processes of insulin response, energy metabolism, and inflammation within muscles.
In other words, the genes that play an important role in the body's overall fitness became more expressed through methylation. These changes were not observed in the unexercised leg.
These findings offer a fresh understanding of human versatility and the benefits of regular exercise. (We can't speak for you, but we definitely needed the reminder!) Still, other questions remain. How does gene expression change with different types of exercise, such as strength training? Only time will tell.