Got bad genes? There’s hope!
Feel like your genes are working against you? Is the reason you can’t get yourself to look/feel/play the way you believe you should simply because you do not have the “right” genes? There are many ways to take these last two statements, however, the focus today is on the biology (as opposed to the behavior) of what’s going on. Genes play a role no doubt but they are not the entire story.
A gene, in the classic sense, is a specific segment of DNA that codes for a protein, a “unit” of inheritance, though this definition is being challenged, we’ll stick with it for now. So by using the information in our genes, we manufacture proteins. Proteins then, in the form of an enzyme, hormone, neurotransmitter, or as a piece of the body’s structural framework (for instance, collagen or keratin), build, support, and/or influence form, function, and performance. As non-primate humans, we share 99.95% of our genes with each other, leaving that final .05% unique to us which in effect accounts for specific characteristics that make us different from each other.
The function of many genes has been identified and cataloged, with hundreds now associated in some way with obesity. Thus, in our current “obesogenic” environment, these genes increase one’s “risk” for becoming overweight, or obese. A recent study looked at people, (363,000 European adult men and women 37-73 yrs old), who were genotyped for 97 different obesity genes. Based on this, researchers calculated how likely, based on their genes, were they to be overweight (a genetic risk score). They also collected data pertaining to how active these folks were, as well as how sedentary they were, as well as their height and weight. Participants were first organized into one of four groups based on genetic risk (highest to lowest), then within each quartile as either:
- High active and low sedentary– those who registered a high amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity (PA) and low amount of time spent in sedentary activity such as watching TV or other screen-related activities,
- Highly active and highly sedentary – Those, like the other group, were very active but reported high amounts of sedentary activity (>4.5 hrs/day)
- Low PA and low sedentary – these folks did not perform a lot of moderate of vigorous PA but spent little time in sedentary activity and,
- Low PA and high sedentary – these folks were inactive and spent >4.5 hours each day in front of a screen.
When compared, it turns out, you can probably guess, those in the high PA, low sedentary category did the best, a body mass index (BMI) roughly three steps below (from a 29 down to a 26) those in the low PA, high sedentary category. That equates to about 15 pounds. Mind you, these are averages. The other two categories also fared better than those in the low PA high sedentary group. The main finding in this study was that the genetic influence for a high BMI was moderated by both PA and sedentary activity. Or, put plainly, the lifestyle of the individual mattered. This is not the first study to show that we can override obesogenic effects through PA, but it is the first to include both PA and sedentary activity. Of course, no research study is perfect, all have limitations, but this one, did have a very large population and the findings were pretty consistent across all groups.
Whether you’ve inherited undesirable genes or not, PA and reducing sedentary time still matters. In fact, more importantly, just increasing PA and spending less time sitting throughout the day is better than just doing one of them. Adding PA doesn’t mean its then okay to add sedentary time later. Both are separate and important. So here is the tip of the day, when you are looking for time to dedicate to your new exercise plan, or even your active habit, maybe trade in some of the time you are spending online or in front of a screen (as opposed to cutting sleep, or family time). How’s that?
Need some more ideas on how to increase PA? Or, even better, how to reduce sedentary time? Stay tuned, I’ll be giving you some in a later post.
Stay safe and healthy!
Ready to make a change in your diet/eating habits? Better yet, ready to improve your life? Check out my remote, holistic, Nutrition Coaching program!
Published by mattktraining
I am currently the Owner of my soloprenuerial company Matt K Training. Through my fitness and nutrition programs I help adults develop skills and practices that help them eat, move, and recover well. Over the past 20 years, in various roles such as a Personal trainer, Exercise Physiologist, Clinical Researcher, and Health Coach I have helped hundreds of adults reach their health and physical performance goals. When not working, I enjoy active pursuits such as playing right field for the Charlton Giants (in a 38+ competitive baseball league), playing tennis, hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing. I also enjoy indoor activities such as playing strategy board games, reading and discussing science fiction literature, dabbling with my guitar, finding creative ways to eat oatmeal, and being a good dad.