An article appearing in The New York Times written by Gretchen Reynolds gave an overview of a study published in Epigenetics. The study researched how exercise makes epigenetic changes mainly through a process of methylation. Scientists are aware that certain genes become more active or quieter as a result of exercise. However, they hadn't understood how those genes know how to respond to exercise.
A study from researchers at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm recruited 23 young and healthy men and women in order to study the epigenetic changes exercise has on DNA. The participants were asked to exercise one leg on a stationary bike for 45 minutes at a time for 5 days a week over a 3-month period. After that period, sophisticated genomic analysis was used to analyze muscle cells. It was determined that on average more than 5,000 sites on the genome of the muscle cells from the exercised leg featured new methylation patterns.
The researchers admitted that more studies have to be performed for more information on this topic but they feel the design of the study is beneficial because one individual essentially is the experimental and the control. This helps weed out other factors that may influence epigenetic changes in muscle cells. Dr. Lindholm, a researcher form the study said, “Through endurance training-a lifestyle change that is easily available for most people and doesn't cost much money.....we can induce changes that affect how we use our genes and, through that, get healthier and more functional muscles that ultimately improve our quality of life."
We all know exercise and diet influence our health dramatically. It was interesting to learn that exercise changes so many aspects of our body including the expression of our DNA. Like Dr. Lindholm said exercise is available to most of us and I think it is so important for us to take care of our bodies; after all we only get one of them. I know next time I am on the treadmill I will be thinking about how I am influencing the methylation patterns of my DNA.