It is easy to understand that exercise can increase fitness and reduce risk of illness, but how does exercise do it? New research suggests exercise changes DNA by changing the function of our genes. Your genes can be turned on or off and thereby change their expression in other parts of the body. Exercise can activate some genes and make others quieter.
Epigenetics is the process called methylation that changes the genes but not the DNA itself. Methyl groups attach to the outside of a gene and make them more or less able to receive and respond to biochemical signals from the body. Methylation from other lifestyle patterns, like diet and exposure to pollutants, also effect gene expression too, which in turn increases or decreases our risk of disease. But exercise is now starting to be better understood.
Even one bout of exercise can have immediate changes in methylation patterns. But now a new study at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm reveals that under consistent, regular exercise show increases or changes in thousands of muscle-cell genes. These substantial changes to muscle cells improve energy metabolism, insulin response and inflammation within muscles. How long those changes linger in the absence of exercise or whether different kinds of exercise have different effects is still unknown.
But, the bottom line is that consistent, regular exercise, otherwise known as endurance training, is very, very good for us. It improves how we use the genes in our muscles making them healthier. Muscular health improvement is only one of many genetic changes throughout the body that happen with exercise.
“God has blessed human beings with nerves, organs, and muscles; and they are not to be allowed to deteriorate because of inaction, but are to be strengthened and kept in health by exercise.” Child Guidance, page 124
Nature Knows Best