A new field known as exercise genetics may finally explain why people doing the same workouts can end up with very different results.
Genetics influence a variety of factors affecting fitness—such as fat burning, endurance, muscle strength, and even muscle cramps.
DNA testing for health allows you to tailor your fitness routine to your genes for the greatest impact.
Exercise genetics is the area of genetics that studies the links between genes and the many factors influencing exercise.
This includes looking for genetic differences in musculoskeletal structure, rates of nutrient metabolism, ability to utilize oxygen, and propensity to gain muscle mass.
Researchers sometimes study performance athletes to discover it they share genetic features not shared by the general population that may contribute to their high levels of performance in a particular area, such as endurance sports.
DNA Fitness Testing
Based on this accumulated knowledge, it’s now possible for anyone to have DNA fitness testing done to gain insights into the effect of their DNA on exercise ability and performance.
This allows for personalized fitness recommendations to be made about which exercises are the most effective for a particular individual, as well as how to minimize the risk of exercise-induced injuries for those who are genetically predisposed.
The Potential to Revolutionize Fitness & Weight Management
It’s widely known that regular physical activity is enormously beneficial. The most commonly cited benefits of regular exercise are:
- Reduced risk of certain chronic diseases (e.g., cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers)
- Weight control
- Increased energy
- Improved sleep
- Increased bone density
- Increased muscle strength
- Reduced levels of chronic pain
- Improved sex drive and function
The value of exercise genetics lies in its potential to match each person with exactly the right fitness plan that includes exercises they are likely to do well, that produce their desired results, and that they can do with minimal risk of overexertion or repeated injuries.
A plan that unlocks all the health benefits of exercise is much easier to stick to.
Although the science is still new, there are some key insights that can be used to develop a personalized fitness plan for safer and more efficient training.
A fitness plan based on DNA testing for health can recommend the exercises most likely to make the greatest positive difference for each individual.
What We Know
The field of exercise science has already generated a significant amount of interest from both the fitness and public health communities.
A number of genes have been identified that influence some aspect of exercise, including genes that affect endurance, muscle strength, fat burning, recovery time, and the tendency to experience exercise-induced muscle cramps.
There are also gene variants that impact how quickly an individual can metabolize certain nutrients which, in turn, affect how nutrients fuel the body during exercise. Rate of metabolism also impacts the body’s ability to stay lean.
Some of the genes that have been linked with exercise are:
- ACTN3 – This gene (sometimes called “the sprint gene”) encodes for a protein found in fast-twitch muscle fibers. One variant of this gene has been linked with endurance, while another variant is associated with power-oriented performance.
- LEPR – One variant of this gene is associated with greater muscle volume and better subcutaneous fat response to resistance training.
- COL5A1 – This gene has been linked with exercise-induced muscle cramping in endurance athletes.
- CREB1 – One variant of this gene is associated with greater exercise-induced temperature increases, which may make exercise less easily tolerated.
Other genetic links that have been discovered include gene variants that cause structural differences in the musculoskeletal system (which includes tendons, ligaments, and joints) and gene variants that impact the ability of muscles to extract and deliver oxygen.
Structural differences affect physical performance and predisposition toward injury, while oxygen consumption rates impact endurance.
Genetic makeup also influences body weight response to exercise. Some exercises are simply less likely to produce weight loss in individuals with certain genetic variants.
This helps explain why standard workout programs may have so-called high responders and low responders.
DNA fitness testing allows for a fitness plan that prioritizes the exercises most likely to produce the greatest benefit, whether for improved physical performance or for weight loss.
Genetics and Body Weight
Good nutrition and regular physical activity provide the foundation for maintaining a healthy weight, but as anyone who has struggled to lose weight can tell you, they’re not the whole story.
Genetics play a major role in the body’s hunger signals, response to nutrients, and fat metabolism.
Genes that have been found to influence body weight include:
- FTO – A variant of this gene is linked to an increased body mass index (BMI) and a higher risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. However, the effects of this trait are reduced in physically active individuals.
- LEP – This gene codes for leptin, a hormone that signals fullness. One gene variant is associated with lower leptin concentrations, which can contribute to overeating.
- MC4R – One variant of this gene is associated with higher dietary fat and total calorie intake, as well as a higher prevalence of obesity.
- PPARs – This group of genes affect fat and carbohydrate metabolism and influence the risk of obesity.
DNA Testing for Health Synergies
DNA testing reveals not just information on an individual’s exercise genetics, but also nutrition genetics and disease risk.
Putting these all together can create a total health plan that is both personalized and synergistic.
For example, if DNA results show that an individual is prone to iron overload or sensitive to salt-induced blood pressure spikes, then these nutrition issues can be managed before starting a cardio plan, to prevent unnecessary stress on the heart.
This can become vitally important if the DNA test also shows an increased risk of heart disease.
Optimal Fitness—One Gene at a Time
We’re all familiar with general exercise guidelines which include things like cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and stretching. Adding DNA fitness testing to the mix enables a person to take their fitness to the next level—for optimal performance and optimal health.
The Fitness Report is a key component of Vitagene’s genetic based Health Report with guides to help a person design a personalized fitness plan based on DNA in order to look and feel their best.