Own exercises? How biology affects physical fitness

How biology affects physical fitness

Getting enough physical activity can make your body and mind feel better. It can also help prevent or delay health problems. Researchers are currently looking for ways to find out which exercises work best for your body.

Different types of exercise can offer different health benefits. You can strengthen your bones with weights, increase your flexibility with stretching, or improve heart health with aerobic activity.

However, all committees are constituted differently. Some people have more muscles that give strength. Others have more of the kind that offer resistance and keep you moving for a long time. This is one of the reasons people can be naturally fitter for different sports.

However, this idea does not only apply to athletes. It also affects people who are physically active to keep fit.

“There are many reasons why different people are better at adapting to different types of physical training,” says Dr. Marcas Bamman, a movement researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “And one important factor that we’re just learning more about is our genes.”

Researchers are investigating how genes affect our body’s response to physical activity. They also study how exercise affects people’s bodies differently. They’re even researching how it affects their microbes.

“The ultimate goal is to provide an optimal exercise recipe for each person so they can get the most benefit from it,” says Bamman.

influenced by genes

Scientists know that different types of exercise have different effects on health, explains Dr. William Kraus, who researches heart disease prevention at Duke University. “Benefits vary by type, intensity, and amount of exercise,” he says.

For example, his lab has shown that prolonged periods of moderate intensity, such as B. brisk walking, can lower the blood sugar level very well. This can be important for people trying to prevent diabetes.

But you may want to lower your “bad” cholesterol levels in your blood to prevent a heart attack. For that, it can be really helpful to do lots of high-intensity exercise to get your heart pumping, Kraus adds.

His team observed these effects in people of different ages and in both men and women. However, when he looks at the people in these groups, he mentions that not everyone gets the same benefit from the same training.

“We want to understand how your genetic background determines your response to exercise,” he says. His research team has identified a group of genes that predict who will see the greatest improvements in heart health from aerobic exercise like jogging or cycling.

Bamman’s team found a set of genes that can be used to predict who would build the most muscle through a strength training program. However, he explains that just because you’re not getting the same benefits as someone else with the same type of exercise doesn’t mean you’re not getting them.

“Everyone responds positively to exercise,” says Bamman. “For example, in our study, people who, like other people, could not build muscle gained strength. Her ability to walk and many other important aspects of health improved.”

The researchers are looking for additional genes that can predict how exercise affects various aspects of health, such as blood sugar control. In one study, Kraus and his team tested an exercise program to reduce the risk of diabetes in a large group of people.

“Some people got much better at controlling their blood sugar, and others didn’t get any better even though they did all the exercises,” he says.

Knowing who is most likely to benefit from specific exercises can help healthcare providers better tailor their recommendations to individuals, Kraus says.

However, these studies are still in their early stages. If you have a medical condition, talk to your provider about the type and amount of physical activity that is right for you.

learn from athletes

“There is hardly any health intervention that is as effective and so comprehensively beneficial to you as physical activity,” says Dr. Euan Ashley, who studies movement and heart at Stanford University.

Ashley, Bamman and Kraus are involved in a large NIH-funded program studying how exercise affects different molecules in the body and studying how this differs between people. The team studies both people who have not exercised regularly and active athletes.

Ashley explains that studying the skills of elite athletes has the potential to help us understand the limits of the human body.

“For an athlete to perform at their best, everything has to work perfectly,” he says. This includes the muscles, heart, blood cells and more. Studies on athletes like runners and skiers have found genetic differences that positively impact how their bodies perform, Ashley says.

“By studying athletes, we can learn more about the extremes of each of these body systems. And by understanding those extremes, we can understand the fundamentals of those systems. That could help us treat people with diseases in those systems,” explains Ashley.

The role of microbes

It’s not just your biology that can affect how exercise affects your body. Scientists are discovering more and more about the role of your microbiome. This is the collection of microbes that live in and on your body.

In a recent study, researchers found changes in a certain type of gut bacteria in marathon runners. They transferred these bacteria to mice. The mice that received the bacteria were able to walk longer.

Scientists are just beginning to study the role of the microbiome in physical fitness. Such studies are difficult because factors like diet, sleep, and even the people you live with can affect your microbiome, Kraus says.

Researchers are learning more and more about biology and physical activity. Regardless of who you are, the amount of activity you get can make a difference in your health. Experts recommend at least 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity. Also, do strength training at least two days a week.

“Exercise has great benefits for both mental and physical health,” says Ashley. Find ideas to get you started.



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  • Genomic predictors of maximal O₂ uptake response to standardized exercise programs. Bouchard C, Sarzynski MA, Rice TK, Kraus WE, Church TS, Sung YJ, Rao DC, Rankinen T. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2011 May;110(5):1160-70. doi:10.1152/jappphysiol.00973.2010. Epub 2010, December 23. PMID: 21183627.
  • Biological insights into muscle strength: Genetic insights in the British Biobank. Tikkanen E, Gustafsson S, Amar D, Shcherbina A, Waggott D, Ashley EA, Ingelsson E. SciRep. 24 Apr 2018;8(1):6451. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-24735-y. PMID: 29691431.

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