Does our DNA influence the way we should exercise?
Updated: Jun 22
Arleta analyses how we can make most out of exercising consdering health and physcosocial factors as well as our DNA.
How do you make the most out of exercising?
To make the most out of exercising, we should always try to match the workout with our fitness abilities, health, predispositions, preferences, goals and time we have or are willing to dedicate to it.
When I personalise a workout however, I try to gather as much data as I can such as; age, gender, physical measurements, BMI (Body Mass Index), estimated BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate), estimated Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), injury history, health concerns, training experience, nutrition habits, personal circumstances and environment, and fitness goals and aspirations.
This information helps me to estimate recommended calorie intake and how much energy client would need to expend through exercise in order to meet her/his goals. Then I design the most suitable training type in order to support the calorie output. The key to training programme’s success lies also in client’s readiness, willingness and ability to follow the program, consistently.
A good training programming should be flexible, adaptive and progressive to accommodate any changes in client’s circumstances, condition and body adaptations, as well as plateaus and setbacks, which are an inevitable part of the process.
When you’re trying to personalise your own workout without the help of the trainer, there a few things to keep in mind. Find the type of activity you enjoy and are likely to repeat often.
You should not be feeling any acute or shooting pain during the workout, if so you should stop and revise the exercise type, your form or intensity. You should not be feeling any pain after the workout either, except for muscle soreness, which is absolutely fine, especially if you’re new to fitness or you change the exercise program.
Getting out of breath during high intensity training for example is absolutely normal too; however person with consistently high blood pressure or heart condition should avoid these types of activities or consult doctor before engaging in them. Track your progress (weight, girth, photos), observe, analyse and make outcome-based decision.
You should be able to tell what works and what doesn’t. Watch your food intake and focus on food types that support your fitness goals and properly fuel your workouts. Stay hydrated and try to get adequate amount and quality of sleep (7-9 hours).
The best exercise is always the one that we enjoy and are able to perform safely and consistently. Even simple walking, can improve mood and cognitive function, and help reduce the effects of aging on the brain. Just do more of what makes you feel good.
Does our DNA dictate what exercise would suit us best?
DNA, our genetic code that determines our characteristics, is constantly changing through the process of mutation. The genes we were born with never change, but DNA does and it can act as a switch button for those genes.
Our lifestyle choices can have direct impact on our DNA behaviour and its degree of damage, repair and resistance. Studies on rats shown, that exercise training can decrease the DNA damage and increase DNA repair in aged skeletal muscle.
Genetic tests for fitness claim that they can help us determine which type of fitness programme would be best for us. Which activities we are likely to do well, get desired results from without overtraining and minimising the risk of injuries. It is still very new field however and more research is needed. Many tests currently available are very inconclusive and contradictory, so it is hard to obtain any valuable and reliable data.
Keeping in mind that our lifestyle can directly influence our DNA behaviour, that triggers the gene switching on/off process, could help us to make better lifestyle choices. This could still be the best practice in order to get the most out of our heathy lifestyle habits. We are in charge of our lives and our health and fitness pretty much most of the time, and most of us have basic knowledge of what type of lifestyle would support our health and/or fitness goals.
We are just not very good at applying that knowledge. It is the getting better at making healthier lifestyle choices that we might need help with rather than another expert or test telling us what we should or shouldn’t do.
Should we choose according to psychosocial factors?
Psychosocial factors play very important role in our lives and our ability to adopt healthier lifestyle. Our environment; family, friends, work and pretty much everything around us can influence how and what we eat, how much we will move throughout the day, whether we will purposefully exercise or not , and if yes, what type of activities we’ll go for… and so on.
Our environment shapes us. We make hundreds decisions each day. Many of them are subconscious. Most of our food decisions for example have nothing to do with physical hunger, but are actually determined by what and who is around us, along with our habits and familiar routines. Similar things happen when it comes to exercising.
Our personal and financial circumstances for instance, will dictate whether we will find the will to exercise in the first place, whether we will train in the gym or outdoors and how we will train, whether we’ll hire a personal trainer or do things on our own.
This all have the influence on our results. I will sound like an old record here, but again, it all comes down to mindfulness. When we make more conscious decisions we can make the environment work for us. By changing our environment, even one tiny bit at the time, we put ourselves in control.
All we need to do is look around. Pay attention. Look for patterns. Observe what factors affect our behaviour or stop us from taking action. We then can try and decide what to do about it.
How did I work my way through different exercises to find the one that suits me?
Before I’ve found my favourite and most beneficial exercise routines, I was just like many others out there, just trying to keep fit by going to the gym and doing a bit of this and bit of that on the machines. I was freestyling by putting together rounds of moves I remembered from the past (when I was training volleyball) or following tips of other fellow gym-goers. I didn’t have any special goal, motivation or inspiration.
My mood was deciding when to go, so I wasn’t very consistent. Once I moved to London however, I started attending group exercise classes. I discovered, Body Pump, Yoga, Box Fit and Zumba, and I got hooked. It was my favourite exercise class combo; a great mixture of strength, mobility, flexibility, power, cardio and fun. I loved instructors and the way I felt after each class. It was my emotional outlet and de-stressor.
I decided to prioritise these sessions so that I can feel good on a regular basis. It was an outcome- based decision. My social and professional life started to revolve around my fav classes. I became consistent and the results started to show. Feeling great inside out, made me more confident and motivated, and it made the habit of exercising easy and enjoyable. It also allowed me to re-connect with my inborn talents and passion for movement.
Fast forward few years later I qualified as a Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach. The world of fitness became my home and my bread and I found my true purpose for exercising.
What I’ve learned over the years from my own experiences and from working with my clients, is that the purposefulness of exercising and improving habits, having the sense of direction and enjoying the process is what makes us tick and helps us stay on track. Firstly do try to assess what is it that you want or need to achieve by engaging in a physical activity, and most importantly “Why” you want it.
You will then be able to narrow down the best exercise plan for you. Having a real purpose and a good structure of daily activities that you enjoy makes them a great progressive learning experience which you’ll most likely want to stick to, even when it gets tough or your motivation fails. As a result you’ll become consistent, and this in turn will bring the results. That’s what makes the exercise best.
Don’t ask yourself burpee or not to burpee? Ask yourself how this is working for me? How does it make me feel? What do I get out of this? What do I learn about myself? Does it bring me any closer to my goal? Do I enjoy it? Can I make it better?