Many people think the genes they inherited at birth are static and predetermine their fate for the remainder of their life. Extensive research into the science of epigenetics is providing startling evidence that this thought process is grossly outdated, and our individual DNA is dynamic and continually influenced by multiple lifestyle factors including diet, environment, stress and physical activity.
Researchers publishing the result of a study in the journal Cell Metabolism provide evidence that that when healthy but inactive men and women exercise for a matter of minutes, it produces a rather immediate change to their DNA. While we cannot change our core DNA code, exercise does influence the DNA molecules within our muscles. Scientists have found that DNA is chemically and structurally altered or expressed in very important ways that affect a myriad of metabolic processes that protect us from chronic disease.
Short Bursts of Moderate Intensity Exercise Positively Influences DNA Expression
The scientists found that DNA modifications signal precise genetic reprogramming in muscles that determine overall muscle strength as well as structural and metabolic benefits derived from physical activity. Study leader, Dr. Juleen Zierath noted “Our muscles are really plastic… muscle adapts to what you do. If you don't use it, you lose it, and this is one of the mechanisms that allows that to happen.”
Epigenetic modifications involve the addition or deletion of chemical markers on the DNA strand that change rapidly based on environmental influences such as the nutritional composition of your last meal, pollutants in the environment or the intensity of an exercise workout. Researchers found that DNA within skeletal muscle examined after a short burst of exercise bore fewer chemical markers (specifically methyl groups) than it did before exercise.
Fifteen to Twenty Minutes of Moderate Intensity Exercise Lower Disease Risk
The study team specifically determined that the DNA modifications occurred in stretches of DNA that are involved in expressing genes known to be important for muscular adaptation to exercise. This research clearly provides more evidence that our genetic constitution is continually evolving in an effort to protect us, and is positively influenced by short, moderate intensity bursts of physical activity. These alterations allow us to adapt quickly to the changing environment that surrounds us.
Dr. Zierath concluded “Exercise is medicine… and it seems the means to alter our genome for better health may be only a jog away.” The finding of this study may explain recent research showing that the best form of exercise works our musculature in short bursts of moderate to full intensity (as measured by attaining maximum heart rate for your age range) for several minutes in duration, followed by a rest period and then another energy burst. Combining this evidence with an organic whole food diet will positively influence your genes toward optimal health.