Exercise Changes DNA
Exercise has long been known to have lifelong mental benefits. but scientists did not know why until Dr. Juleen Zierath of Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, recruited 14 men and women in their mid-20s who did not usually exercise, tested them before and after exercise and found that after a short but intense spin on a stationary bike, samples of their tissue showed temporary, but big changes in the muscle fibers to help individuals meet increased energy demand and work more efficiently.
J. Mark Davis at the University of South Carolina reports that these epigenetic signals create new mitrochrondrial DNA (the body's powerhouse cells) positively effect the expansion and growth of new neurons. improve mental function, reduce dementia and regulate emotions (The Journal of Applied Physiology). This is important since it is generally thought that cells loose mitochondria as we grow older, causing age related illnesses and declines in brain function June Chan, Sc.D. compared men who exercised vigorously for at least 3 hours per week with those who exercised less demonstrating that vigouous activity for 3 or more hours a week regulated many genes, including the tumor suppressor genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 and those involved in cell cycle and DNA repair and found that these improvements were linked to a lower risk of prostate cancer progression and death (Genitourinary Cancers Symposium in San Francisco).
The changes happen fast. Exercise sets signals in motion almost instantly that determine which genes get turned on and off (Romain, Barres et al. ''Acute Exercise Remodels Promoter Methylation in Human Skeletal Muscle''). But lazy exercising won't do it. In testing gene activity of participants who exercised at two different levels, the team ound that those who cycled at 80 percent of their maximum capacity showed signifigantly more cellular activity than those who had only used 40 percent of their ability.
Susan Rabinowitz, director of New York's Taoist Arts Center notes that research finds it unnecessary to use 100 percent of ou exercise ability to change our health and believes that these findings are in harmony with the practices of the Water Method of Tai Chi and Chi Kung offered at the school.
Potentially life changing as these studies are, much work remains. Researchers believe the current studies offer hope many conditions may be modified by exercise. They are studying what other lifestyle changes can positively affect our DNA and whether those modifications can be transferred to the next generaltion. The public is longing to find out, but one thing is certain: exercise can improve our health both now and in the future.
We thank the following sources for the information in this article
Scientific American: How exercise Jogs the Brain, by Steohani Sutherland, February, 29, 2012
Time Magazine: Healthland, How Exercise Can Change Your DNA by Alice Park March 7, 2012
Modern Medicine: Gene activigy may explain how exercise lowers prostate Ca progression risk.