Exercise sessions can actually alter our DNA…in a matter of minutes!

At any given time clients demonstrate a lack of motivation, causing them to skip the gym. When I encounter such clients, I have gotten into the habit of sharing one of my favorite new mantras:

“You are always one workout away from a good mood!”

Attitude or Scientific Truth?

The scientific community has illuminated the veracity of this mantra. According to research led by Juleen Zierath, a professor of Physiology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, physical activity seems powerful enough to alter our DNA. While we are each born with a unique molecular program that dictates such aspects as hair color, eye color and height, it now seems that how we live our lives — the food choices we make, environmental toxin exposure, and our level of physical activity —- can affect what is known as our epigenome. This term refers to the system that determines which genes are turned on at specific times and how long they remain active.

The data strongly points to how even a single 20-minute workout can lead to epigenetic changes that help improve muscle function. In one study, certain genes within the participants’ DNA were found to be pumping out more metabolic proteins immediately following a biking session. This process in turn helps generate enzymes required to burn calories and produce energy.

Increases in muscle function enable the body to train longer and harder, which translates into clients reaching their fitness goals more efficiently. When clients clearly see and feel the evidence of their hard work, motivation begins to skyrocket.

Move to Improve

Zierath believes this serves as molecular proof of why our industry is so beneficial and the science behind what we consistently tell our clients: “exercise is a medicine”. Genetically, we are programmed to move. In our hunter/gatherer days, when “fights or flight” truly were our only options, we moved our bodies out of necessity and survival. As life has evolved to contain more and more convenience factors, we seem to have forgotten that our bodies are machines that will fall apart and fail to operate properly if we neglect their most primary function.

We do not expect a car to start if it has been idle in the garage for 6 months. So it is with the human form. Reluctant clients may sometimes prefer to hibernate under a blanket on cold mornings and skip out on training sessions. Take these opportunities to remind them that even when the going gets tough, every single body needs to “be a verb”. Their DNA will most definitely reward them with a positive mood swing!

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  1. ki.se/en/news/exercise-changes-the-dna
  2. https://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/31821/title/Exercise-Alters-Epigenetics/

Cathleen Kronemer

Cathleen Kronemer is an NFPT CEC writer and a member of the NFPT Certification Council Board. Cathleen is an AFAA-Certified Group Exercise Instructor, NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer, ACE-Certified Health Coach, former competitive bodybuilder and freelance writer. She is employed at the Jewish Community Center in St. Louis, MO. Cathleen has been involved in the fitness industry for over three decades. Feel free to contact her at trainhard@kronemer.com. She welcomes your feedback and your comments!