Exercise & Epigenetics. Changing Your Routine Changes You From The Cells Up:
Sometimes beauty is a lot more than skin-deep.
But we often feel out the context in which something is expressed, and then instinctively accept that notion as the whole truth about it.
That’s one of the ways we can make assumptions about exercise.
It’s just there to vaguely get us in some kind of shape, burn some amount of calories, and hopefully lose us some weight, right?
Or is it something more? Like The Hawthorne Effect, which says you can’t even measure a system without affecting it?
Washington State researchers think they may have the beginning of an answer…
The Short Answer:
- Sometimes we can get wrapped-up in the way something is discussed.
- In those situations, we can forget there is more to it.
- A WSU team found this out about exercise.
- It turns out it doesn’t just burn calories.
- It makes lots of changes to signaling chemicals and how your genetic code gets expressed.
- This difference between what your code is and what actually gets done is called Epigenetics.
- 70 pairs of twins were studied over 7 years by WSU.
- The genes of the ones who exercised a lot were expressed very differently than the ones who didn’t.
- This was true for at least 50 different genes.
- Other disciplines like environmental, meditation, and fasting researchers have all found genetic changes too.
- These can occur in as many as 2200 locations, and also in tiny clocks residing in more than 20 different locations in your body and brain.
- Exercise affects more than just your reflection and your waistline.
Read on to find out the details…
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So a lot of what we try to do in the beginning of the year is about change.
Or as Nietzsche might say, becoming a better person than you were yesterday, last week, or maybe even last year.
Even if for right now, the symbol of your insufficiency is the extra flab staring back in the mirror.
From my own experience and Dr. Grace Lordan’s advice, the best way to make that change is to establish a solid routine that’s populated by baby-steps,
Not a 180-degree change expected to start happening right away.
What meditators, behavioral economists, and biochemists alike are discovering is something you knew psychologically all along.
That flab is about a lot more than just weight, and in many ways change often happens in all different kinds of small ways.
Which brings us to a very convenient study on exercise.
Researchers at WSU were lucky enough to run a study on one of the best comparisons anyone could. Twins!
What they found about exercise between the two starts out as something you might expect.
The study worked with 70 pairs of people over the course of 7 years using fitness-trackers, cheek-swabs, and questionnaires.
The more active of the twins showed fewer problems associated with what scientists are now calling “metabolic disease“,
These were generally indicated by waist & BMI measurements (even though BMI is not the end-all be-all).
But the researchers also found something else at a much smaller level.
One of the interesting things that happens with twins, despite the identical genetics, is that for some weird reason(s) they often develop different diseases as they age.
The same type of dynamic was true for this study, too.
Because not only did the twins have different physical dimensions and BMIs.
Their genetic-expressions were different, too!
In the case of twins where one exercised a lot more than the other sometimes by 150 minutes/week,
Whole sets of molecules flowing around their bodies that influence gene-expression were different!
So much so, that the minimum number of genes affected was at-least 50!
This is basically a reference-example of the science of Epigenetics, which means that your DNA-code is like the list of programs your body’s computer could run.
So in a way, your actions and your environment are influencing the most vital part of your genetic-code: The part that actually gets used!
So there you go. Even twins, who theoretically should have exactly the same problems and outcomes, actually don’t.
Because their habits and actions are different!
But wait, it gets better.
Because there is more evidence that your environment and what you do work to shape who you are at a very small scale.
In a study of meditators, researchers found that experts were changing the expression of more than 2200 genes.
But newbies who had taken classes for two weeks were already changing the expression of almost 1600 different genes!
Furthermore, there are several scientists who speculate that changes in your mindset that can come from being in a different place can actually change which genes get expressed, and how much.
Sort-of like a waking version of that meditation exercise.
On one more related but slightly different note, Dr. Satchin Panda (Patron Saint of Intermittent-Fasting) is discovering that there are tiny clocks in cells all throughout your body.
And that time-windowed eating plan turns out to affect genetic-expression in at least 22 different regions all around your body, and also in your brain!
So although it might seem at times that your efforts are insignificant, that might not be true.
The fact that you’re trying and putting yourself into a better set of routines could start out with lots of baby-steps that echo all around your body.
Even if you had the perfect reference example to compare yourself against like a twin,
If you could see into all those tiny clocks all throughout your body,
You should have faith that as long as you’re moving forward in a positive way, that you are becoming someone better than who you were yesterday.
Soon, the outside will begin to reflect those baby-steps and look as good as the tiniest parts of the inside.
• Source: WSU
• More Coverage: NIH – Epigenetics And Lifestyle
• Source Study: Nature,SciRep – Epigenome-wide association study of physical activity and physiological parameters in discordant monozygotic twins