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Blog - Richard Geres Personal Training - Weight-Loss, Fitness, Research

Sat, 20 February 2016

Why Exercise Changes your Genetics

Have you ever looked at the bodies of athletes?

They look different than normal bodies.

Whether they are track athletes, gymnasts, footballers, tennis players or swimmers, their bodies are powerful, toned, strong and sexy and they radiate health, vigor and lots of sex appeal (except for some scrawny marathon runners maybe).


Obviously, those bodies didn't develop by accident. They are a result of many years of hard, physical training and supportive nutrition.

Although most athletes are very lean, they actually eat lots of food. Their energy demands are high due to the high amount of training they perform. And its not always clean food as you might expect. Their meals often include pizza, large servings of pasta, and desserts. Not your typical diet food. World-record swimmer Michael Phelps (winner of 12 Olympic medals) was renowned for eating up to 12,000 kcal per day, including chocolate-chip pancakes, waffles, pizzas and fried sandwiches while still maintaining a ripped, lean body.


So why is it that athletes can down thousands of calories of junk food and still remain lean, while other people gain weight as soon as they eat a couple of cookies?

The answer may lie in how your genes have been modified by your environment, especially by exercise.

Although humans are all born with the same chromosomes, or genetic information, the way certain genes are switched on or off depends on our environment.

A recent study has given more insight how our genes can be manipulated throughout life by environmental factors that impact us on a day-to-day basis. Pollution, toxic food and lack of exercise may turn off certain genes, while exercise and healthy food intake may turn on genes that improve bodily function through a process called methylation.

Subjects in the study exercised 1 leg on a bike (the other leg didnt cycle) 4 times per week for 3 months. Subsequent analysis of muscle and DNA in the muscle cells showed significant changes between cells of the exercised and not exercised leg, with the exercised leg showing changes in thousands of genes that are known to play a key role in energy metabolism, insulin response (i.e. your ability to process sugar and your likelihood of developing diabetes) and inflammation (heart disease, stroke and cancer are linked to chronic inflammation). It is not known however, how long these positive changes persist, once the exercise programme is discontinued. You are therefore best off never quitting to exercise.

Some huge benefits of exercise

Exercise is powerful. It's a wonder drug and miracle cure. Here are just a few of its many benefits:

  • Exercise induces changes in gene expression that improve health
  • Exercise increases the body's efficiency at burning energy (calories)
  • Exercise improves food partitioning (whether food is used by muscles for energy or stored by fat cells as fat)
  • Exercise improves metabolic flexibility (the ability for the body to switch efficiently between burning carbs and burning fat for energy - obese and sedentary people cannot do this efficiently and therefore do not burn fat effectively)
  • Exercise reduces stress, anxiety, depression, blood sugar and blood fat content (triglycerides) and improves HDL (good cholesterol), sleep quality, libido, energy levels and mood.
  • Exercise reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers.

Build new habits

Building a 'habit' of exercising regularly requires a change in daily habits. It will not come from willpower alone. Willpower is at best temporary, and will always be overpowered by habitual routines (such as being sedentary). To build new habits, you need repetition, repetition and more repetition. While you can obviously achieve this on your own through determination, planning and rigorous implementation, most people find this hard to maintain for more than a few weeks or months without outside help and support.

Our solution

Most of our clients have a history of starting weight-loss and fitness programmes, and never seeing them through. While the wish is there initially, they just find that other priorities always take over, or they lose motivation due to lack of results.

This is where the real benefits of a coaching team become apparent. Being monitored, supervised, encouraged and assessed on a regular basis for the duration of your programme means that you no longer have to worry about whether you are doing the right thing. Our coaches take care of that. Your regular appointments ensure that you do not skip workouts and the weekly repetition of this routine builds new habits. That's why many of your clients have been with us for years.

The foundation of happiness is optimal health. You cannot enjoy your money, friends and family to the full if your health is compromised. In our world of ever increasing 'busy-ness' it is important that you put a bit of time aside to implement measures that keep you healthy, such as exercising and consuming good quality food. See this as an investment. As in monetary investments, investing in your time to maintain optimum health and a feeling of wellness will increase your likelihood of leading a long, satisfying life. Don't wait till it's too late.

To contact us about our programmes, please call us on 27877445 or book an online consultation appointment by clicking here.

I look forward to meeting you and guiding you on your journey towards better fitness, health and well-being!

Lindholm ME, Marabita F, Gomez-Cabrero D, et al. An integrative analysis reveals coordinated reprogramming of the epigenome and the transcriptome in human skeletal muscle after training. Epigenetics. 2014;9(12):1557-1569. doi:10.4161/15592294.2014.982445. Link