As the years go, we just keep learning more and more about why regular exercise is a solid idea. However, the most recent exercise-related scientific finding is one that will shock even the rattiest of gym rats; it turns out that exercise can actually change our DNA.
According to a study just released in Epigenetics, exercise does more than make us healthy today and tomorrow, it also reshapes are genes and redirects them to function differently so that our bodies will more easily and more readily be healthy for years and years. As we exercise, our bodies are forced to adapt so that they can handle workouts that our bodies rightly assume are to come in the future. One of the ways that our bodies prepare for future workouts is by changing some of our genes so that they, the genes, are able to quickly react by expressing proteins that trigger other physiological exercise-needed responses elsewhere in our bodies.
The changing of a gene’s functioning that happens on the exterior of the gene via the methylation process is called epigenetics. However, neither of these two fancy words necessarily mean that a gene’s DNA has been changed since that usually takes place inside the gene. But, there are some methylation processes that can change the way that some of the genes work that results in a changing of our DNA. Some of these DNA changes can come about from bad influences in our lifestyles such as routinely breathing polluted air or eating unhealthy diets. Conversely, the study done by scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm used genomic analysis and found that a positive lifestyle choice, regular exercise, creates new methylation patterns on at least 5,000 new locations on the genome of muscle cells that have been exercised on an exercise bicycle for 45 minutes, four times a week, for three months.
While the science behind these changes is less than simple, the lesson that it teaches is as clear as ABC. “Through endurance training, a lifestyle change that is easily available for most people and doesn’t cost much money, we can induce changes that affect how we use our genes and, through that, get healthier and more functional muscles that ultimately improve our quality of life,” said Malene Lindholm, a graduate student at the Karolinska Institute.
Medically reviewed by Jay J. Garcia, MD on December 19, 2014