On Blast: Exercising Your DNA
I have to share this article that I read in TIME Heartland. It’s about a study in which they showed a change in DNA through exercising…seriously. Exercise keeps us lean, lowers heart disease/stroke/diabetes risk, and (as if you need more convincing to work out), now it’s great for our DNA.
In this study, researchers were measuring the activity of a compound called a methyl group. Methyl groups are sticky and love to attach themselves to other compounds. The problem in our bodies is that if you change the structure of something, you change the function. Sometimes this is good, sometimes not so much. Here is one example of why they are important in exercise: these groups prime your muscle cells to ready themselves with energy and nutrients for the impending work they are about to do. One downside to methylation? When a methyl group fixatates itself to a DNA molecule, the alteration to the structure limits gene activity in the molecule. The study describes one example of a cell’s ability to specialize into an eye cell or a liver cell, depending on the amount of methylation to that cell at a given time. Scary.
Researchers here found that the more intense the exercise, the more methyl groups were out and about, rather than settling and fixating immediately. So what else happens with intense exercise? With intense exercise, the more intensity, the more oxygen is consumed to keep up the aerobic work. Oxygen consumption is increased until your body hits its max threshold. This is called the VO2max. Generally, the higher your VO2max is, the more you can sustain high-intensity aerobic work.