Do you feel like nothing you do to lose weight works? You take up jogging and nothing. You start a new DVD to burn belly fat and get very limited results. That’s because our exercise genetics make some bodies more receptive to the positive effects of exercise, while other bodies are more resistant.
According to Prevention magazine, “one in six of us is genetically destined to get hardly any response from endurance training, and one in five has a handicapped metabolism. Scores of us have the genes that make sitting in a chair heaven on earth and going to the gym as uncomfortable as dental surgery.”
These natural shortcomings are built into your genetic code, known as our exercise genetics, and that genetic code can determine our level of motivation, endurance, strength, flexibility and metabolism.
Some people are more predisposed than others to get pleasure from pushing themselves to exercise. A recent study that was published in The Journal of Physiology demonstrated that the level of motivation one has to exercise may be inherited. In the study, lab rats who voluntarily ran on their wheels more often were mated with other rats that also voluntarily ran on their wheels, and the ones who didn’t run on their wheels very often were mated with other rats who also didn’t run on the wheels very often. The scientists discovered differences in the activity of certain genes in the brains of both sets of rats. The rats that were bread to run had more mature neurons in the nucleus accumbus, which lights up when we do something we enjoy and set out to do.
If your genetic code makes you less motivated to exercise, all is not lost! Motivation can be learned and it can be gained from social inspirations. Surround yourself with things and people that do motivate you and you’ll find your motivation presents itself easier.
Low VO2 max is the culprit for feeling winded. It’s a measure of how much oxygen is used up by your muscles. Studies show that your baseline VO2 max and your ability to improve it are based on your genetics.
There are things you can do to improve your VO2 max, such as high intensity interval training. Try pushing yourself hard until you feel winded for about 30-60 seconds, then walk or pedal slowly for at least double that amount of time, and keep repeating that cycle during your workout. After staying consistent with this type of exercise, you should notice an improvement in your endurance levels even if your genetic makeup makes it more difficult.
Our genetics also plays a role in our level of strength. Your personal mix of muscle fibers make up your personal formula for strength. Some people have more fast-twitch (FT) fibers, which help them with movements like sprinting and powerlifting, while other people have more slow-twitch (ST) fibers, which help them have endurance for long runs.
To improve your strength, you need to choose exercises based on your personal muscle fibers. Otherwise, your exercise routines will do nothing for you. People with more FT fibers will get stronger faster using heavier weights and less reps, while people with more ST fibers will benefit more from using less weight and more reps.
Your DNA is also responsible for how much collagen you have, which is a protein that provides elasticity to your skin and ligaments, making you more flexible as a result. If you consistently do flexibility exercises like yoga and you aren’t seeing results, Prevention magazine suggests 10 minutes of stretching each day, especially when your muscles are warmed up, performing each stretch for at least 60 seconds. Even if you have less collagen than others, this will help you improve your flexibility.
Everyone builds muscle differently based on their genetics, and while many people respond well to muscle-building programs, about 30% of people don’t. If you fall in that 30%, nutrition can help. By eating about 20 grams of healthy protein, such as whey protein or eggs, within 30 minutes of an exercise routine, you can provide your muscles with the amino acids they need to build and repair.
Some people don’t experience the metabolic rewards that exercise provides due to their DNA, which means they don’t burn calories as easily as others. High intensity workouts such as those explained in the endurance section above can help you create the afterburn that more effectively burns calories.