Exercise Spurs DNA to Improve Health-regulating Genes
Exercise truly is a vital component of good health, as was once again illustrated in a recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal Cell Metabolism. Researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, and Dublin City University in Ireland found that just a few minutes of rigorous exercise is enough to spur almost immediate changes in DNA that improve the ways health-regulating genes express themselves.
For their study, the research team asked a group of young people to undergo an intense, 20-minute workout session on stationary exercise bikes that was designed to get their hearts pumping and their bodies sweating. Upon completion, samples of muscle tissue were examined and compared to samples from those that had not participated in the exercise.
It turns out that, while one’s actual genetic code is not changed by exercise, DNA methylation, or the process by which genes are told whether or not to remain “on” or “off,” is altered in such a way as to improve normal bodily function. Based on a comparison of skeletal muscle both before and three hours after exercise, Professor Juleen Zierath and her colleagues observed that exercise demonstrably spurs DNA to better transport fats, sugars, and other nutrients throughout the body, as well as protect cells from oxidative damage.
“The changes in methylation and expression for the genes studied are important for mitochondrial function, glucose transport as well as fat transport and oxidation,” said Dr. Donal O’Gorman, director of the Centre for Preventive Medicine at Dublin City University, one of the researchers involved in the study. “The findings support the view that regular activity is necessary for metabolic health and the prevention of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.”
Though the DNA changes were only temporary, they do help illustrate how the body reacts to exercise, and how the muscles being worked by exercise respond in terms of growth and nutrient transport. By getting just a few minutes of rigorous exercise every day, you are essentially teaching your DNA how to distribute nutrients, build muscle, and ultimately improve health.
“Our muscles are really plastic,” said Prof. Zierath in reference to the findings. “We often say, ‘You are what you eat,’ well, 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.”