Exercise does a lot of good things — it burns calories, helps keep your weight in check and lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Now add one more thing to the list: physical activity can change your DNA.
So writes Alice Park in a recent article.
She goes on to point out that these are good changes to the DNA. Unlike the bad changes caused by carcinogens, exercise-induced DNA change is more like a tune-up for the muscles. And, as you might expect, the more intense the exercise the greater the effect.
Alice Park is a writer at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @aliceparkny . You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME. You can read the full article, with references to the research upon which it is based, at
How to Change Your DNA Through Exercise
Researchers examined biopsies taken after exercise to determine the mechanism, and found that more genes were turned on in the cells taken after exercise than those before exercise. The DNA showed less methylation after exercise. Methylation is a molecular process where methyl groups attach to the DNA and limit the cell’s ability to switch on certain genes.
The ability to switch on certain genes is the mechanism by which the DNA is able to differentiate in cell development, so that a particular cell develops as a kidney cell or a toenail cell, for example. By reducing methylation, exercise effectively tunes up the DNA’s ability to selectively build the correct cells.
What is the Best Exercise?
Exercise researchers generally use stationary bicycles for their research, since those make it simple to measure the level of exercise attained. Does this mean that exercise bicycles give the best exercise? By no means.
The answer to what is the best exercise depends on the purpose of the exercise. Exercise tends to be specific: if you want to run a marathon, your main exercise should be running. If your goal, however, is to change your DNA, any high-intensity exercise will work.
Most experts agree that weight bearing exercise is the best, and of the weight bearing exercises weight lifting exercises are the most effective. A good weight training program will give the most rapid results in terms of general fitness and, presumably, DNA change.
Weight Training Exercises
The problem with weight training exercises is that many people just don’t enjoy working out with weights. Spending hours sweating in a gym is not my idea of fun: I can think of many activities I would prefer. Weights exercises, as generally thought of, are boring and frequently non-productive.
This is why I find the 7 Minute Workout Program to be an exciting alternative. In about 20 minutes a week I can get more benefit than I would from hours in the gym, and I can choose to work out at home if I wish. Not only does it save me time, it’s more effective and a lot more enjoyable.