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One More Reason to Exercise

When most disregulated eaters think about genes, they look at them as static predeterminants of body weight, but there is more going on than meets the eye. Did you know that you can actually change your cellular structure by exercising?

“How exercise changes cells is a mystery” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 8/27/13, p. 18F), reminds us that some of our genes turn on and off—called expression—“depending on what biochemical signals they receive from elsewhere in the body. When they turn on, genes express various proteins that, in turn, prompt a range of physiological actions.” For example, it turns out that something called the “methylation process” is substantially driven by lifestyle choices. This process is important because “differing methylation patterns resulting from differing diets may partly determine whether someone develops diabetes and other metabolic diseases.” So, it’s not as simple as thinking that you have or don’t have a gene for diabetes or other conditions.

For example, research tells us that exercise can affect the process of methylation in a positive way. In a Swedish study, men who exercised twice a week for six months not only shed fat and lost inches, but altered their methylation expression. This means they changed the ways fat was stored in their bodies. Other studies found “that exercise has an equally profound effect on DNS methylation within human muscle cells even after a single workout,” proving the oft-made point that some exercise is better than none at all!

Many people focus on the reasons they don’t want to exercise or view it through the singular lens of producing a leaner body. If they doesn’t happen, they give up. If you are one of those people, it’s time to consider all the benefits you reap from activity, including the possibility that, even if you have a genetic disposition to diabetes or metabolic syndrome, you may be able, through exercise, to avoid these conditions. How often do you consider the improvement your body undergoes on a cellular level when you exercise? Not often, I bet. Instead, you dwell on all the reasons you perceive exercise to be difficult or dream about the thin body that being a high activity person will bring you.

People who love themselves and respect their bodies take care of them. They want to prevent disease and increase longevity. They’re thrilled that there’s something they can do to keep their bodies in good working order. Next time you don’t want to move your body, think about all the benefits that will occur on a cellular level that will give you a better life. Then rejoice at the amazing ability to modify your heredity.