Exercise doesn't only improve your appearance, it can alter your genes, cutting your risks of obesity and diabetes, a new Swedish study finds.
While inherited DNA cannot be altered, the way that genes express themselves can through exercise, diet, and lifestyle, researchers from Lund University Diabetes Center explained, noting that a workout can positively affect the way cells interact with fat stored in the body.
Lead author Charlotte Ling, associate professor, and her team looked at the DNA of 23 slightly overweight but healthy men aged around 35. The men previously didn't exercise but attended indoor cycling and aerobics classes for six months.
"They were supposed to attend three sessions a week, but they went an average 1.8 times," says associate researcher Tina Rönn.
Using technology that analyzes 480,000 positions throughout the genome, they could see that epigenetic changes had taken place in 7,000 genes (an individual has 20,000 to 25,000 genes). A closer look revealed genes linked to diabetes and obesity, also connected to storing fat, had also been altered.
"We found changes in those genes too, which suggests that altered DNA methylation as a result of physical activity could be one of the mechanisms of how these genes affect the risk of disease," said Rönn.
"This has never before been studied in fat cells. We now have a map of the DNA methylome in fat," Lind added.
The findings, announced last week, appear online in the journal PLOS Genetics.
A separate study published this March in the journal Cell Metabolism shows that when people exercise for as little as 20 minutes, it can alter their DNA almost immediately.