Exercising your DNA

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT

Every summer, as the St. Louis temperatures heat up to sauna-like proportions, I realize that I am, in fact, a warm weather fan. Sure, I like the changing seasons as much as the next guy, but hot summers are something I treasure. It always surprises me, then, that some individuals with whom I chat in the gym are actually in as bad of a mood this time of year as they are in the frigid dead of winter! So, I have gotten into the habit of sharing one of my favorite new mantras: “You are always one workout away from a good mood!”

I truly believe this with all my heart. But now, the scientific community has officially backed me up! According to research led by Juleen Zierath, a professor of physiology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, it seems that physical activity can actually change our DNA–for the better! While we are born with a 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, what we are exposed to in the environment, and our level of physical activity —- can affect what’s known as our epigenome, the system that determines which genes are turned on at specific times and how long they remain active. As it turns out, researchers have concluded that even a single 20-minute workout can lead to epigenetic changes that help improve muscle function.

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In one study, certain genes were found to be pumping out more metabolic proteins after a biking session. From the point of view of our muscles, this helps generate the enzymes required to burn calories and produce energy. Since increases in muscle function will enable us to train longer and harder, and reach our goals in a more efficient manner, how can one’s demeanor be anything but improved?

Genetically, it seems, we are programmed to move. So, get out there and be a “verb”…your DNA will most definitely reward you with a positive mood swing!