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Exercise induces DNA changes

A new study has found that exercise can structurally change DNA molecules within your muscles almost immediately after a single 20-minute workout.

The new study published in Cell Metabolism shows that exercise-induced changes to the DNA tunes up muscles to help them operate better, which can curb the effect of “obesity-gene.” Essentially, these “epigenetic modifications” reprogram our muscles for better strength and structure.

“We often say ‘You are what you eat.’ Well, muscle adapts to what you do. If you don’t use it, you lose it, and this is one of the mechanisms that allows that to happen,” said Juleen Zierath of Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.

According to TIME, the study collected 14 young men and women who lived fairly inactive lifestyles. Each participant was asked to exercise on a bike for 20 minutes in order to measure their maximum activity levels. In a relatively painless biopsy procedure, the young adults gave some muscle from their quadriceps before and after their workout.

Research found that more genes were activated in the cells after exercise and the DNA showed less methylations, a process where chemicals, called methyl groups, settle on the DNA to limit the cell’s ability to control certain genes. Methyl groups become more active the more intense the exercise.

Zierath and her team of experts also found that caffeine consumption also can alter muscles in similar ways. TIME states that muscles release calcium when one starts to exercise. Caffeine was found to also release calcium and enhance the methyl group’s ability to activate genes that help muscles contract.

However, Zierath stated drinking coffee over exercise is not recommended.

“In order to get the same kind of effect we saw in the cells, you would have to drink 50 cups of coffee a day, which is close to the lethal dose. In my mind, half an hour of moderately high intensity exercise is sufficient to do the same thing,” she said.

Categories: Health