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Could your genes make you run faster?

A new study suggests that genes play a significant role in how bodies respond to exercise, identifying the specific genes that do 

It is in the genes
It is in the genes (Unsplash)

Imagine this--your best friend and you both decide to train for a10k. Neither of you has run before, so your baseline fitness level is more or less the same. You train together for three months, using the same program. On the D-day, however, she manages to clock in ten-minute miles while you're basically going at the same pace as your grandmother on her evening stroll. Sounds familiar? It turns out that there is a reason for it. 

According to ANI, a new study suggests that genes play a significant role in how bodies respond to exercise. The study, which has also identified several specific genes that influence the outcomes of different physical activity, was published in the journal PLOS ONE. “72 per cent of the difference between people in performance outcome following a specific exercise can be due to genetic differences,” reported ANI, adding that the study was conducted by the Cambridge Centre for Sport and Exercise Sciences at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in England.

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To conduct their research, scientists analysed data from 3,012 adults aged 18-55 - who had not previously taken part in exercise training - to determine how our genes can affect three important types of physical exercise, reported ANI. “Muscle strength, cardiovascular fitness, and anaerobic power are all key factors in shaping an individual's fitness, wellbeing, and quality of life, and all participants showed improvements following their exercise training, but to varying degrees, even when performing the same exercise training," said the study. 

Scientists, therefore, concluded, after combining data from 24 separate studies, that genetic differences are responsible for 72 per cent of the variation in outcomes for people following identical exercises. The rest is influenced by other factors such as diet and nutrition, recovery, and injuries added ANI. 

The study identified thirteen genes and associated alleles responsible for how well the body reacts to various fitness activities. Lead author Henry Chung, a Postgraduate Researcher at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said: “We know that exercise is good for us, but we all improve at different rates, even when following identical training regimes. This means there are other factors at play,” he pointed out in an interview to ANI. 

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So, what does this mean for regular exercises? First, it helps a certain degree of customisation in workouts. Basically, exercises can be tailored to suit your genetic makeup, ensuring that your workout program is best suited for your body. “Because everyone's genetic make-up is different, our bodies respond slightly differently to the same exercises," said Chung, adding that this could be particularly useful for people who wanted to see improvements in a short amount of time, say elite sportspeople. "It should be possible to improve the effectiveness of an exercise regime by identifying someone's genotype and then tailoring a specific training programme just for them,” he said. 

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