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Genetic Testing: Should You Bother to Exercise? Research Paper

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Updated: May 6th, 2022

Genetic variation in humans plays a key role in the heterogeneity of resultant body responses to exercises. Some genomes support the exercise-mediated improvement of high blood pressure, alleviation of diabetes type 2, muscle development and the metabolism of excess body fat. For example, some classifier genes contain DNA variants that contribute to the variation of VO2max responses in people undertaking physical exercises (Timmons, et al. 2010). However, some people are of the view that the effect of genetic variation on exercise-mediated body responses is dismal. This argument is usually based on the idea that several other factors such as diet, lifestyle, disease and the effect of certain medicines override any possible effects of genetic variation on exercise. This has led to the general dismissal of most genetic tests provided by many exercise programs. As a result, genetic testing and genetic counseling can only be administered by physicians. These only benefit victims of severe cases or prominent genetic disorders such as diabetes and cancer (Herring et al., 2012). Genetic testing, however, may reveal very important information about one’s ability to respond to exercises. A genetic test should be provided over-the-counter so that people can get an overview of their genetic potential for certain exercise responses.

People who have certain genes exhibit slower responses to exercises. The ability of some people to withstand strenuous activities is limited by the structure of vital tissues, cellular organelles and functionality of various body systems. For instance, defective red blood cells, as seen in bearers of the sickle cell gene, fail to take up adequate oxygen necessary for one to sustain long exercise sessions. Various heritable congenital heart disorders also impair the ability of one’s cardiovascular system to supply adequate oxygen and energy to various body parts during exercise. Variations in such genes as peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-coactivator-1 (PGC-1)and AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) are thought to play a role in the regulation of muscle adaptation to exercise (Timmons et al., 2010). Even though they do not play a significant role in exercise endurance, they coordinate how starter’s muscles adapt to trained movements during specific exercise programs.

VO2 max is the highest rate of oxygen consumption attainable during a maximal or exhaustive exercise session. Any increase in exercise intensity beyond this point relies on one’s cardio-respiratory capacities (Timmons et al., 2010). Genetic constitution affects one’s VO2 max through its influence on the nature and structure of one’s cardiovascular system and respiratory structures and this, in turn, affects the person’s overall aerobic power (Timmons et al., 2010). Certain gene sequences influence complex biological networks that mediate the person’s response to an aerobic exercise-training stimulus. Some of these networks facilitate signaling pathways while others facilitate the secretion and utilization of hormones such as insulin. They also facilitate the burning of fat and other energy sources (Redinger, 2009). Genetic information in the DNA of a cell controls these networks.

The relationship has also been established between certain essential sex-specific fat stores and major metabolic differences between people of different sexes (Cureton and Sparling 289). This makes sex-determining genes play a role in determining the amount of reserved energy available to a person depending on his/her gender. The issue of gender becomes broader and more complex whenever sex-related disorders are singled and investigated at a genetic level. The amount of such sex-specific fat stored in victims of contentious sex may add to the contention if it does not tally with other factors such as estrogen levels.

Important arguments have been raised against the effects that genes have on exercise response. They mainly revolve around the idea that lifestyle, disease and diet override the effect of genetic variation. Dealing with these factors is inevitable when making predictions about exercise-related responses. Lifestyle influences the exercise response because it dictates the amount and types of substances that are taken by a person. It also influences one’s perception of exercise and determines his/her ability to keep up with schedule during exercise therapy or other programs. This, however, is a secondary or social factor that does not affect the genetically related causes of inability or ability to exhibit a certain level of exercise response. Genetic effects on the body system and organs’ structure also commence at the initial stages of growth. As opposed to this, lifestyle is an adapted set of habits that are changeable under appropriate conditions. Disease and diet are also variable factors that affect one’s response to exercises. The two, however, do not predispose anyone to an inability to respond to exercise ideally, because different exercise programs can always be made to suit a given disease or diet. Genetically related diseases, however, predispose one to a state of being unable to respond to exercise ideally. This has been evidenced by some diseases whereby exercise therapy is a major part of the treatment. For example, genetically-related obesity that stems from certain cancers has been seen to lead to higher obesity-related mortalities as compared to deaths from cardiovascular diseases (Frisoli et al., 2011). Genetically related health problems, as a result, may be tougher to alleviate as compared to several other health problems. Genetic testing is therefore necessary for people who seek to make certain changes to their bodies through exercise in order to clear uncertainties about the outcomes of exercises. Such tests will also prevent frustration for those who have cancer-related obesity.

Given that no solid facts have been provided to prove that genetic testing is irrelevant in exercise programs, and most importantly, that the testing may reveal whether one’s genetics suit certain exercise programs, it is important that genetic tests be offered over-the-counter. This will facilitate access to them by people who want to engage in exercise programs to find out how their genetics may affect their response to the programs. Such tests will also enable exercise therapists to create personalized exercise programs for people with varying genetics. This will assure all parties involved of the expected exercise response. It will also enable people whose genetics bar them from exhibiting such change to seek appropriate alternatives. These alternatives may include gene therapy, drugs, and other medical procedures. In addition, these measures can be combined with physical exercises which probably will have better effects. (Frisoli et al., 2011). Scientific evidence has guarded the fact that one’s allelic make-up guarantees certain patterns in his or her physiology. Over-the-counter genetic testing and genetic counseling should therefore be introduced, but first, relevant professionals who are proficient in the field of genetics will have to be availed. This will ensure that only scientifically relevant information is given to the general public.

References

Cureton KJ, Sparling PB. Distance running performance and metabolic responses to running in men and women with excess weight experimentally equated. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1980; 12(4): 288-94

Frisoli TM, Schmieder RE, Grodzicki T, Messerli FH. Beyond salt: Lifestyle modifications and blood pressure. Eur Heart J 2011; 32(24): 3081-3087.

Herring MP, Puetz TW, O’Connor PJ, Dishman RK. Effect of exercise training on depressive symptoms among patients with a chronic illness: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arch Intern Med. 2012; 172(2): 101-11.

Redinger RN. Fat storage and the biology of energy expenditure. Transl Res. 2009; 154(2): 52-60.

Timmons JA, et al. Using molecular classification to predict gains in maximal aerobic capacity following endurance exercise training in humans. J Appl Physiol. 2010; 108(6): 1487-1496.

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