How Exercise Affects Your Genetics to Prevent Disease

Last month we discussed how your lifestyle habits can determine whether your genes are “expressed” to keep you healthy or whether they trigger you to develop disease.  The field of epigenetics has shown your DNA can become damaged and express disease because of an unhealthy diet, a toxic environment, stress, and a lack of exercise.  We all know exercise is a good lifestyle habit and a vital component of good health, but we did not know how exercise affected our genes until now.  

Researchers had a group of young people undergo an intense, 20-minute workout session on stationary bikes that was designed to get their heart rate up and their bodies sweating. Immediately after exercise, samples of muscle tissue were examined and compared to samples from those that did not participate in the exercise.

Upon close inspection, researchers discovered DNA methylation, a process by which genes are told whether or not to remain “on” or “off.”  It is these “on” and “off” switches that determines whether one stays healthy or gets a disease.  

More specifically, they observed that exercise spurs DNA to better transport fats, sugars, and other nutrients throughout the body, as well as energy production and protecting cells from oxidative damage.

Although 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. This study also demonstrates why regular, consistent exercise is important to keep our gene expression “good” on a continual basis in order to prevent disease.