Aerobic capacity (AC) is the maximum amount of oxygen consumed while performing intense activities that involve large muscle groups.
It is also a measure of how effectively the heart and the lungs get oxygen to the muscles. Hence, improving your aerobic capacity can directly result in more efficient use of oxygen by the body.
The other term which is used to describe aerobic capacity is VO2 max.
However, the VO2 max also takes into consideration the individual's body weight.
Improving aerobic capacity strengthens your heart and helps it pump blood throughout the body more efficiently. In fact, aerobic exercises are recommended by the American Heart Association for those who are at risk for heart diseases.
A study reported that aerobic exercises improve sleep quality in adults with insomnia.
Improving your aerobic capacity can boost your immune system and gear it up to fight viral infections like cold and flu.
Though aerobic exercising can be tiring initially, building up your aerobic capacity also improves heart and lung capacity. All these factors can help build up your stamina.
Aerobic exercises help lower blood pressure. A meta-analytic study reported the effects of aerobic exercise training in lowering both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Aerobic exercising helps alleviate the symptoms of mental conditions like depression and anxiety. It also promotes relaxation of the mind.
Low impact cardio activities can help with chronic back pain. They also may help improve endurance and get back some muscle function.
Studies suggest that people who engage in regular aerobic exercise live longer than those who don't. They also have a lower risk of dying of conditions like heart disease and certain cancers.
A study conducted by a consortium of five universities in the United States and Canada revealed astonishing variation in the aerobic capacity amongst 481 participants. The study subjected its participants to identical stationary-bicycle training regimens with three workouts per week of increasing intensity under strict control in the lab.
- 15% of participants showed little or no aerobic capacity gain
- Up to 15% of the participants showed a 50% increase in the amount of oxygen their bodies could use
VEGF-A is a gene that encodes Vascular endothelial growth factor A. VEGF-A has important roles in mammalian vascular development and diseases involving abnormal growth of blood vessels. Variations in the VEGF-A gene influence heart structure, size, and function. These have an impact on the stroke volume, which is an important determinant of aerobic performance.
rs2010963 and Aerobic Capacity
rs2010963, also known as G-634C, is an SNP in the VEGF gene. The C allele has been associated with better aerobic capacity. According to a study, GC and CC genotypes were found to have higher values of aerobic performance.
Other genes like ADRB2, CAMK1D, CLSTN2, CPQ, GABPB1, NFIA-AS2, NRF1, PPARA, PPARGC1A, and PPP3CA also influence the aerobic capacity of an individual.
Sex: Men have higher VO2 max than women. This is because women have smaller hearts, lower hemoglobin, and more fat, all of which influence oxygen delivery to muscles.
Age: VO2 max decreases with age. After 25, it reduces at the rate of about 1% per year.
Body size: Larger body size and greater musculature is associated with higher VO2 max. This is also partly why men have a higher VO2 max.
Fitness levels: A fit person may has a higher aerobic capacity and VO2 max than a sedentary person of the same age and sex.
Genetics is only 50% of the fitness story. The rest wires down to other factors like your lifestyle, what you eat, and how hard you train.
Augmenting your aerobic capacity can result in better blood and oxygen flow to muscles.
This promotes faster recovery between sets and improves your flexibility.
Aerobic exercises include walking, running, cycling, swimming, and almost every other cardio workout.
When aerobic exercises are performed, your heart is trained to deliver more oxygen in a said span of time. At the same time, your muscles are trained to utilize the oxygen delivered more efficiently.
To improve your aerobic capacity, it is important to understand how your body builds endurance.
It depends on the following three things:
1. Heart rate (number of beats per minute)
2. Stroke volume (amount of blood pumped out with each beat)
3. Cardiac contractility (a measure of the force with which the heart muscles contract)
When you train to increase all the above-mentioned variables, naturally, the amount of blood and oxygen reaching your muscles increase.
This, in turn, has a positive effect on your overall athletic performance.
HIIT workout (High-intensity interval training): Studies show that HIIT workouts increase mitochondrial density. This directly results in an increased amount of oxidative enzyme. As a result, the functioning of your skeletal muscles is enhanced.
You can start with a simple 10-minute workout consisting of three sets.
Gradually you can increase the duration, and at the same time, try to fit in more sets.
LISS training (Low-intensity steady-state training): LISS training is the less popular cousin of HIIT. Though it is not as effective as HIIT in burning calories, it is a slow, steady, and lower-stress way to improve AC.
Aerobic training usually targets large muscle groups of your body that boost your heart rate for longer periods of time.
Some of the commonly recommended aerobic exercises include
Walking and running: Other than helping you lose weight, walking and running at moderate paces also help people with joint problems.
If you do not have access to outdoor space, treadmills can also work.
Swimming: Water aerobics in general, are easy on your joints due to the buoyancy offered by the water
Cycling: Cycling is an amazing leg workout and exerts lesser stress on joints compared to walking or running
Some of the aerobic exercises that you can do at home include:
- Jumping jacks
- Running in place
Despite knowing the numerous benefits of exercising, it’s just too hard to get up and get moving on some days. Not for everyone though. Some people seem to have a lot of energy all day around. Why does that happen? Why are some people motivated to work out while others need that extra push?
It may take around eight weeks for a beginner to become a regular exerciser according to behavioral research. However, studies show that 50% of people starting an exercise program will drop out within the first six months.
Exercise initiation depends on three factors:
After initiation, other factors motivate the person to continue exercising:
There are two types of motivation, namely, extrinsic and intrinsic.
Some examples of extrinsic motivation or external motivators are:
Intrinsic motivation is something that comes from within. Some internal motivators are:
The Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) gene encodes the protein by the same name. This protein is found in the brain and spinal cord. It is especially found in the regions of the brain that control eating, drinking, and body weight. Hence, the protein influences all of these functions.
rs6265 in BDNF Gene and Exercise Motivation
rs6252 is an SNP in the BDNF gene, which has been associated with exercise motivation. The G allele of this SNP has been associated with a lower motivation to exercise. It is also linked to a higher risk for weight gain.
Other genes like C18orf2, DNAPTP6, and PAPSS2 also influence exercise motivation.
Sex: Men are more likely to engage in workouts based on competitiveness, while women are more interested in workouts that alleviate stress and improve physical appearance.
Psychological: Low levels of self-esteem affects women’s exercise participation and adherence, as they tend to gain less satisfaction from exercise engagement.
Sedentary lifestyle: A lifestyle that involves a lot of sitting makes it all the more difficult to get up and get the body moving.
Exercise injuries: Working out with the wrong form or improper technique can lead to injuries. This may discourage people from working out again.
Set up achievable goals: It is important to set realistic goals that are best suited for you. If you are new to exercising, you may want to lighten your goals. For beginners, it is advisable to start with 20-30 minutes 2-3 times a week.
Remember to reward yourself: Sometimes, vague goals like weight loss or better health may not feel rewarding enough as they may take a while to achieve. By treating yourself to a delicious treat after a good workout, you create a kind of reward loop in your brain. In fact, you can trick your brain into growing fond of this link between exercise and reward. This may increase your willingness to commit to the workout.
Find a routine you like: It is important to workout because you ‘want to’ and not because you ‘have to.’ If you don’t love any exercise in particular, walking may be a good start.
Get some reliable support: A good workout buddy can go a long way. Even on the days you don’t really feel like it, having a support system in place can help you kick the lull.
Don’t be too hard on yourself: It is completely normal to miss out on a day or two of workouts. In fact, such ‘rest days’ are recommended for the sore muscles to heal.
Endurance refers to your body’s physical capability to exert itself for long periods of time. Individuals with good endurance levels can sustain exercise for an extended period.
Endurance has two components:
1. Cardiovascular endurance: The level at which your heart and lungs work together to deliver oxygen to the body while exercising
2. Muscular endurance: Ability of your muscles to perform contraction against a resistive force for extended periods
Exercise, in general, is known to improve bone density and overall bone health. According to a study, there was an increase in the lumbar bone density in people who underwent weight training, compared to the control group.
Endurance training helps increase the white blood cells, which are the quarterback of the immune system.
Endurance and resistance training help build muscle mass. As your muscle mass builds up, your body burns more calories.
Endurance training seems to have an effect on mental health by regulating the release of endorphins. It is also associated with chemical signals that are involved in pain sensations and inflammation. Endurance training may positively impact depression and mood swings - the reasons behind it have not been clearly identified.
Glucose in the blood is used for energy production when performing exercises that increase the heart rate for a short duration. Sustaining exercise for a longer duration keeps your heart rate high for a significant amount of time. This results in tapping the body fat for energy, thus helping you lose weight.
A 2016 study identified 93 genetic markers associated with endurance. Some variants allow your muscle to contract and relax repetitively for a longer duration, while the others may hinder this process.
These variants also influence other endurance-related aspects like:
The type of fuel used by the cells for energy production
The percentage distribution of muscle fibers (slow twitch and fast twitch)
The adaptability of the blood vessels to carry more oxygen.
ACE gene encodes angiotensin I converting enzyme. This enzyme plays a role in balancing electrolytes and regulating blood pressure in the body. The enzyme also influences capillary supply lines (blood flowing through narrow vessels) and aerobic (oxygen-dependent) metabolism in skeletal muscle.
rs4343 in ACE Gene and Endurance
rs4343 is an SNP in the ACE gene. It causes a G to A transition. The G allele is associated with deletion variation (one or more letters are removed from the sequence - D), and the A allele is associated with insertion variation (one or more letters are added to the sequence - I). Studies have found the A allele (ACE/I) to be commonly present among endurant athletes.
ACTN3 gene encodes the Actinin Alpha 3 protein and is primarily expressed in the skeletal muscles - type 2 muscle fibers. Fast-twitch/type-2 muscle fibers are associated with the ‘sprinter’ variant. The slow-twitch fibers, on the other hand, are associated with the ‘endurant’ variant.
rs1815739 in ACTN3 Gene and Endurance
rs1815739 is an SNP in the ACTN3 gene. It causes a T to C transition. C is associated with fast-twitch fibers and promotes sprinting-based activities. People with the C allele may be better at sprinting than endurance-based activities.
ADRB1, COL5A1, GABPB1, HIF1A, and 47 other genes are also associated with endurance.
The following tips can help in building endurance:
Push Through Some Yasso 800s
The concept behind Yasso 800s is pretty simple. Take your goal marathon time and then run 800 meters in that time; one small change - use minutes and seconds in place of hours and minutes. For example, if you’re trying to run a 4:15 marathon, your Yasso 800m goal time is 4 minutes and 15 seconds.
Sink Into Some Tunes
Listening to good music improves your cardiac efficiency by lowering your heart rate. This enables you to perform the task at hand for a much longer duration with maximum efficiency.
Caffeine shot gives a boost to the energy, which can help you complete rigorous tasks. However, it is important to be wary of how much caffeine your body can tolerate.
Your joints and muscles have a certain range of motion that the body allows. Flexibility is the ability of the body to move freely through this allowed range. Flexibility is also known as limberness. The parts used more are usually more flexible than those that are not put to much use.
Some people are more flexible than others. Genetics play a role in determining how flexible your joints and muscles are. Exercise can also improve a person’s flexibility to a certain extent.
There are two types of flexibility.
Dynamic flexibility - The ability to move joints to the maximum of their allowed range of motion (e.g., bending down to pick up an item or stretching to take something from a higher shelf).
Static flexibility - The ability to maintain a position for a longer time without any external support (e.g., lifting your leg and keeping it high without holding any support).
When you have higher flexibility, your body can handle physical stress much better. Hence, when you are exercising or doing a strenuous physical activity, the chances of getting hurt are lesser.
A study concluded that people who take up flexibility exercises and stretching two times a week for 12 weeks saw improved balance and lumbar strength.
A study that explored the effects of yoga on athletes reported that yoga improved flexibility in adult athletes. Flexibility, in turn, improved athletic performance.
When your body is more flexible, the muscles are better relaxed. This reduces general body pain in adults and children.
A 2009 article relates poor trunk flexibility to increased risks of arterial stiffening. Arterial stiffening is the stiffening and thickening of the artery walls that can lead to heart diseases.
The ACTN3 gene helps produce the Alpha-actinin protein. This protein gives structure to muscles in the body.
A 2014 study analyzed the effects of polymorphism of the ACTN3 gene in flexibility and injury risk in ballet dancers in Korea.
The result concluded that those ballerinas with the ACTN3 TT genotype of the rs1815739 SNP are less flexible than others and have higher risks for ankle-joint injuries. Ballerinas with the CT and CC genotype were more flexible and hence had lesser risks for injuries.
The COL5A1 gene is called the ‘flexibility gene.’ This helps produce the type V collagen. Collagen helps in strengthening your bones, muscles, skin, and tendons. It keeps your joints mobile and flexible. Lowered levels of collagen can result in stiffness and reduced flexibility.
rs12722 is an SNP of the COL5A1 gene. The T allele of this SNP causes quadricep stiffness and an increased risk of muscle injuries while the C allele is not associated with flexibility issues.
Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) is a genetic disorder that results in loose joints, very stretchy skin, and overly flexible joints. People with the syndrome have extra ranges of joint movements, also called hypermobility. EDS can cause joint pain, frequent injuries, and bruises in the skin.
More than 100 different mutations in the COL5A1 gene are noted in people with EDS.
Age - Newborns are extremely flexible. Flexibility in the body reduces as you age. After 55 years of age, collagen production reduces, and tissues start losing water. This brings down flexibility levels.
Body Bulk - If you have more bulky, it may be difficult to stretch or move limbs and muscles.
Gender - Women are considered more flexible than men.
The temperature and time of the day - You might be surprised, but your body’s flexibility depends on what time of the day it is and the external temperature. Warmer climates improve flexibility, and people are more flexible in the afternoons than in the mornings.
Over-flexibility is a problem when your muscles, ligaments, and tendons stretch beyond what’s normal for them. It puts stress on your tendons and ligaments and results in injuries.
Ligaments are not to be stretched more than 6% of their length. Some people can be over flexible because of their genes, which increases their risks of injuries and ligament tear.
Yoga, stretching exercises, pilates, etc., are all different kinds of exercises that help improve your flexibility. All these exercises gently stretch muscles and improve mobility.
Static flexible exercises require you to hold a stretch or a position for 30 -60 seconds before relaxing. Static flexible exercises help improve flexibility.
Taking a warm water bath can instantly relax your muscles and improve your flexibility.
When done right, massages can help improve flexibility and your range of motion, keeping your joints stronger and agile.
Water is essential for the normal functioning of the body. Dehydration can cause inflexibility and limit your range of motion. Make sure you drink adequate water to improve flexibility.
Stress is known to tighten muscles and decrease physical flexibility. Working on mental stress levels can help the muscles relax and improve your flexibility levels.
Tendons are made of fibrous connective tissues that attach muscles to bones. They are present at each end of a muscle. The largest, and the most commonly known tendon, is the Achilles Tendon, which attaches the calf muscle to the heel bone. Tendons and ligaments give mobility, flexibility, and stability to our body joints and are required to work in tandem at all times.
Tendons are made up of dense fibers of collagen. The basic unit of a tendon is the primary collagen fibers that are made up of collagen fibrils. Collagen fibers are resistant to tearing but are not very stretchy.
Tendons also have fewer blood vessels compared to muscles and are thus more injury-prone. Added to this, any injury to tendons requires a much longer recovery time.
Tendons play an important role in transferring the contraction force produced by the muscles to the bone they hold. They help keep the joints stables. When muscles are put into action, the tendons help absorb some of that impact.
The tendon size determines the actual and potential muscle size. People with shorter tendon length and longer biceps have a better ability to build more muscle mass than those with longer tendon size. Shorter tendons are associated with successful bodybuilders.
Strong tendons are necessary for withstanding stresses generated due to muscular contraction. During weight lifting, it’s just not the muscles that take the impact - your tendons take some of that impact, too. This demands an adaptive response. When properly developed, a tendon has good elasticity and is strong and capable of great power. As seen before, tendons receive lesser blood supply and thus take a lot more time to respond to training than muscles.
Exercises to strengthen your tendons can help prevent tendon injuries like tendonitis.
COL1A1, also called collagen type 1 alpha 1 chain, is a gene that encodes a part of type 1 collagen. Type 1 collagen is the most abundant form of collagen in the body. Collagen synthesis begins as rope-like procollagen molecules, and each molecule is made up of three chains – two pro-α(I) chains and one pro-α(II) chain. Cross-linking between the collagen fibers is responsible for strengthening these fibers and the structures they give rise to.
The COL1A1 gene is located on chromosome 17, and a particular variant of this gene is associated with the increased susceptibility of sports-related tendon and ligament injuries.
rs1800012 of COL1A1 Gene and Tendon Strength
A single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs1800012 in the COL1A1 gene has been associated with tendon and ligament injuries like ACL injuries, Achilles tendon injuries, shoulder dislocations, and tennis elbow. People with the TT type have a reduced risk for sports injuries involving tendon and ligament. The TT type, even though it’s rare, is found to play a protective role.
COL5A1 or Collagen Type V Alpha 1 gene encodes a component of type V collagen. The COL5A1 gene synthesizes the pro-α1(V) chain of collagen V. Type V collagen is associated with the regulation of the diameter or width of the fibrils. Studies have shown that type V collagen controls the assembly of the other types of collagen into fibrils in various tissues.
The COL5A1 gene is located on the q arm of chromosome 9 and is associated with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Ehler Danlos Syndrome. A particular variant of this gene is associated with soft tissue injuries.
rs12722 of COL5A1 Gene and Tendon Strength
rs12722 is an SNP in the COL5A1 gene. It is associated with Achilles tendon pathology, Achilles tendinopathy, tennis elbow, and anterior cruciate ligament rupture. According to a study, people with the CC type of rs12722 had a significantly decreased risk for Achilles tendinopathy than those with CT and TT. Individuals with TT are at a higher risk of Achilles tendon pathology, anterior cruciate ligament injuries, and tennis elbow.
Some other genes that influence tendon strength include GDF5 and MMP3.
The factors that affect the physical properties of collagen also influence the tendon strength
-Age: As you age, the stiffness of type 1 collagen increases. The amount of total collagen content also decreases.
-Diabetes: According to a study, experimentally induced diabetes increased the tendon stiffness in rats. There was no change upon administering insulin.
-Physical training: Training results in increased tensile strength in tendons and the ligament-bone interface.
-Pregnancy and postpartum: According to a study, pregnant rats showed a marked decrease in tensile strength as compared with normal, nonpregnant female rats.
There are many exercises and workouts that can help you enhance your tendon strength. The idea behind these exercises is to use short-range movements that allow heavier weight lifting. This gradually improves tendon strength. Some exercises that are particularly helpful are:
-Stretching: including a full range of motion–pectoral stretch, calf stretch, front squat.
-Volume increasing exercises
Tendons are made up of collagen, and therefore, collagen boosting can help strengthen your tendons.
Some nutrients like vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, and magnesium help collagen strengthening. Protein-rich food also helps in strengthening tendons as collagen is, after all, a protein.
The following foods can be included as part of your daily diet:
1. Nuts like almonds, peanuts, walnuts, cashews, pecans, hazelnuts
2. Seeds like sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds
3. Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, guava
5. Leafy greens like spinach and kale
6. Soy and soy products like soy milk, tofu, tempeh
11. Beans and other legumes
Handgrip strength is a vital force that is required to pull, push, or suspend objects.
It determines how firmly and how long you can hold on to objects.
Handgrip strength varies from one person to the other.
Crush grip is used to perform functions involving a handshake or gripping an object against the palm and wrapping the fingers around the object.
Pinch grip is used for opening jars, rock climbing, and throwing objects.
A strong support grip required good muscular strength and muscular endurance.
Handgrip strength may predict future loss of mobility. According to a study, men with a weak grip were more likely to face mobility issues compared to those with normal grip strength.
Handgrip strength can be used to measure the risk of an individual with the onset of cardiovascular disease in adults.
Research studies have shown that a better handgrip is associated with healthier heart function.
An 11-pound decrease in grip strength is linked to:
-17% higher of heart disease
-9% higher risk of stroke
The association between gip strength and heart disease was a strong irrespective of age, exercise, smoking, and other factors.
According to a 2015 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, grip strength is an important marker of hypertension and diabetes in healthy adults. Individuals with lower handgrip strength were more likely to have diabetes and/or hypertension.
Weak grip strength can make weightlifting, sports training, and even daily activities like carrying objects difficult. It can result in minor discomfort or sometimes even injuries like carpal tunnel and tennis elbow. It is very important to train your grip for mobility, strength, and endurance. Failing to do this can result in repetitive motion injuries.
The link between good handgrip strength and positive health outcomes has been observed across both sexes. This trait also appears to be a predictor of sexual behavior, but only among men and not women.
During evolutionary history, increased physical strength was undoubtedly favorable for activities like hunting, fighting, male-male competition, tool manufacture, and tool usage. The handgrip and forearm strength, in particular, were really important.
Thus, upper-body masculinity seems to be an important feature that determined female mating-choice.
This explains why handgrip strength appears to be one of the best measures of male reproductive fitness to-date.
A lot of studies have investigated the relationship between handgrip strength and sexual behavior in men. They report that stronger hand grips are associated with having more sex partners.
This trait also seems to have an association with behavioral traits like aggression and social dominance. According to a study, higher handgrip strength was associated with self-reported aggression during adolescence and young adulthood.
Handgrip strength is a heritable trait. Up to 65% of a person’s grip strength is determined by genes. Training and other developmental factors like nutrition determine the rest 35%.
The ACTG1 gene encodes the protein gamma (γ)-actin, which is part of the actin protein family. The proteins of this family help form the actin cytoskeleton.
rs6565586 is an SNP in the ACTG1 gene. The A allele of this SNP has been associated with a better handgrip strength.
HLA gene complex encodes proteins that are responsible for the regulation of the immune system. Certain types of HLA have been associated with loss in skeletal muscle mass.
rs78325334 is an SNP in the HLA gene. The C allele of this SNP has been associated with weaker handgrip strength.
Other genes like DEC1, ERP27, GBF1, GLIS1, HOXB3, IGSF9B, KANSL1, LRPPRC, MGMT, PEX14, POLD3, SLC8A1, SYT1, TGFA,, and UCP3 are also associated with handgrip strength.
-Posture: Several studies have found that grip strength measurement for standing is stronger than supine and sitting positions.
-Gender: Males have a stronger handgrip than females
-Handedness: According to a study, handgrip strength is higher in the right hand dominant than left-hand dominant group.
-Nutrition: Nutritional status determines an individual’s body mass and hence, the handgrip strength.
-Age: As you age, your handgrip strength decreases. It is usually the maximum between 25 to 35 years of age.
-Arm support: Arm position influences grip strength. A flexed shoulder position results in greater grip strength. The grip weakens when the arm is supported when compared to an unsupported arm. This can be due to the energy expended in keeping the supported arm stabilized.
-Smoking: Smokers have a higher risk of decreased/weakened handgrip strength.
-Alcohol: Individuals diagnosed with alcoholism have decreased handgrip strength.
Other factors like the altitude, temperature, oxygen availability, and forearm girth also affect handgrip strength.
Hand-grip strength tends to reduce as individual ages.
Men’s grip strength starts to deteriorate post 55 years of age.
However, some exercises can be done to improve hand-grip strength, such as:
-Pullups and chin-ups
A study examined the relationship between diet and handgrip strength in older men and women. The following observation were made:
1. Both men and women whose diets were characterized by high consumption of fruit, vegetables, wholemeal bread, and fatty fish had higher grip strength.
2. Higher consumption of fruit, fatty fish and breakfast cereals and a lower meat consumption (including red and white carcass meats) were associated with higher grip strength in men.
3. The same trend was observed in women with fruits and fatty fish - but no correlation was observed between cereal consumption and handgrip strength.
4. Grip strength in women was positively associated with vegetable consumption.
5. None of the nutrients selected for the study were related to grip strength in men
6. In women, except for vitamin E, all the nutrients showed an association with handgrip strength.
Handgrip strength is how firmly and securely you can hold onto things. It determines your capacity to carry heavy objects as well.
This trait influences a lot of health factors, including mobility, heart health, and longevity. It is also associated with sexual behavior and aggression in men.
65% of a person’s handgrip strength is heritable. More than 15 genes are known to influence this. For example, the C allele of SNP rs78325334 in the HLA gene has been associated with a weaker handgrip.
The other 35% is affected by developmental and lifestyle factors like sex, age, nutrition, posture, smoking, and alcohol.
Gripper exercises, modified planks, pullups and chin-ups, and wrist extension are some of the exercises that help improve handgrip strength.
According to a study, fatty fish and fruits were associated with a better handgrip strength in both men and women.
Muscle fatigue is the reduction in the capability of muscles to perform work. It can be associated with a state of exhaustion, which can occur due to exercising or other strenuous activities. Muscle fatigue makes it hard to move normally. It can make people tired and leave them energy deprived.
This is because muscle fatigue decreases the force behind the movement of muscles, causing a person to feel weaker.
A lot of people experience muscle fatigue, and in most cases, it is minor. However, a few people may take a longer time to recover from muscle fatigue. They may require medical intervention.
The onset of muscle fatigue has hampered many athletes from achieving their maximum potential.
It can happen due to either or both of the following:
-The nervous system fails to generate a sustained signal with muscle tissue
-The contraction ability of the muscle is reduced
Anaerobic metabolism is a process in which the body produces energy without using oxygen. This commonly occurs during periods of intense physical activities (exercises). During this process, lactic acid is released as a byproduct. Small amounts of lactic acid operate as a temporary energy source. However, when it gets built-up in the muscles, you feel the “burning sensation.” If the lactic acid is not cleared quickly, it can lead to muscle fatigue. For this reason, it may be desirable to reduce lactic acid build-up in the muscles
How quickly lactic acid is cleared, and in turn, the fatigue onset is influenced in part by genetics.
MCT1 gene, also called SLC16A1, encodes the Monocarboxylate transporter 1 (MCT) protein. It regulates the transport of lactate and other substances. It also removes lactic acid from the muscles.
MCT1 gene influences the amount of MCT you produce. The more you produce, the quicker is the clearance rate. This delays the onset of muscle fatigue.
rs1049434 is an SNP in the MCT1 gene. This SNP affects lactic acid clearance by influencing the amount of MCT produced. According to a study on a group of moderately active men and women, it was observed that individuals with the AA type had higher levels of lactate compared to the TT type.
Other genes like_ COL5A1, HNF4A, TNF, and _NAT2 also influence the likelihood of fatigue.
The build-up of lactic acid is characterized by symptoms like:
- A burning sensation in the muscles
- Muscle soreness
- Muscle cramping
- Shortness of breath
- Yellowing of skin or eyes
Magnesium delivers energy to the body while exercising and helps limit lactic acid build up.
Foods rich in magnesium include legumes like navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, and lima beans, seeds such as pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds, and vegetables like spinach, greens, turnips.
Getting enough rest aids muscle recovery as well as the breakdown of lactic acid
It helps the body to break down glucose and thus can help to limit the body’s need for lactic acid. Food sources of these fatty acids include fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, nuts and seeds like walnuts and flax seeds, and plant-based oils such as olive oil, canola oil, rice bran oil.
B vitamins help to transport glucose throughout the body and help provide energy to the muscles. Food sources of B vitamins include leafy green vegetables, cereals, peas and beans, fish, beef, poultry, eggs and dairy products.
Eating a healthy meal can help prevent muscle soreness.
Ligaments are connective tissues that connect bones together. They give the skeletal system its structure. Ligaments control the amount of movement between bones.
In the human body, about 900 ligaments connect different bones.
Ligaments are made of collagen fibers. Collagen is a kind of structural protein that gives strength and structure to different parts of your body, including your muscles, ligaments, tendons, and skin.
Collagen fibers that run parallel to each other are bundled up to provide strength to the ligaments.
Ligaments were once assumed to be fixed in their positions. The latest researches suggest that ligaments respond to various internal and external factors that can improve/worsen their function.
The name ligament comes from the Latin word ‘ligare .’ Ligare means to tie-up or to bind.
Think of ligaments like strong ropes. These tie-up bones and joints in place and prevent them from getting twisted or dislocated.
Ligaments are very important for painless and comfortable movement. While most ligaments connect and hold together bones, few other ligaments hold together other body parts and organs.
Irrespective of whether ligaments hold together bones, joints, or other organs, strong ligaments are important for the stability of the body. Weak or damaged ligaments can cause increased risks of injuries, pain, and frequent dislocations of bones.
Ligamentous laxity is a condition that causes loose ligaments. Your ligaments may not have enough strength to hold together bones and organs.
A very common example of ligamentous laxity is flat feet, medically known as pes planus. Here, the arch of the feet does not hold up when standing. This causes pain and discomfort, especially when you are standing or walking for a long time.
Here are some of the symptoms of weakened ligaments to look out for.
Tingling sensations around joints
- Pain and numbness
- Frequent dislocations of bones
- Muscle spasms
- Hypermobility (the ability to move/stretch beyond the normal range of motion)
The COL1A1 gene is called the flexibility gene and helps produce type I collagen in the body. Reduced collagen production can lead to weakened ligaments.
An SNP in the COL1A1 gene, rs1800012, can cause changes in ligament strength. According to a study, people with the TT genotype had a lowered risk for ligament injury. However, no such effects were seen in the GT and GG genotypes. The study concluded that people with the TT genotype have reduced risks for ligament injuries. Those with GG and GT genotypes have no such protection.
Another meta-analysis that combined the results of 4 individual studies also concluded that those with TT genotype have extra protection against ligament injuries.
Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) causes extremely flexible joints and skin and results in loose and weakened ligaments. People with this syndrome have a condition called hypermobility that increases the range of motion of their joints.
About 100 types of polymorphisms in the COL5A1 gene are identified in people with EDS.
Marfan syndrome is an inherited disorder that affects the connective tissues, including ligaments. It reduces the elasticity of the ligaments.
The FBN1 gene encodes a protein called fibrillin-1. Fibrillin molecules bind to the nearby proteins and each other to make elastic fibers. These fibers make ligaments.
There are about 1300 mutations in the FBN1 gene that can result in Marfan syndrome.
*Age - As you grow older, collagen production in the body reduces. This can weaken ligaments and increase your chance of injuries.
Gender - Research suggests that women have higher risks for certain types of ligament injuries in sports than men.
Accidents and injuries - If you have had an accident or an injury, you may have damaged the ligaments, leading to decreased ligament strength.
Exercises - There are many exercises aimed at improving muscle strength and making you stronger. You can tweak these exercises to increase your ligament strength too. By decreasing your range of motion using weights, you can strengthen your ligaments.
Short-range motion exercises cause quick stretching and shortening of the muscles.
- Tricep press while lying down
- Push press behind the neck
- Leg extensions and leg curls
- Stretching and flexibility exercises
Balanced diet - If weakened ligaments result from decreased collagen production in the body, you can improve collagen production by including these foods in your diet.
- Bone broth
- Egg white
- Red and yellow colored fruits and vegetables
- Citrus fruits
Adequate sleep - If you are not sleeping for at least 7 hours every night, the body’s collagen production is lowered. This can put unwanted stress on your ligaments and result in increased risks of injuries and pain. Change your lifestyle to sleep 7-8 hours a day, and your ligaments will get stronger naturally.
Strengthening supplements - According to a study, the consumption of vitamin C-enriched gelatin supplements before working out can double up collagen production in the body. This can improve your ligament strength gradually.
Exercise is a very important part of a healthy lifestyle. Exercise makes you fit, healthy, and improves your stamina.
An important part of any exercise regimen is the rest period that aids recovery.
Exercise recovery is a series of steps/techniques you follow to recover from exercising. There are two basic types of exercise recovery.
Active exercise recovery - This includes performing light and low-impact exercises after a period of intense exercising. It helps your body cool down. Yoga, foam rolling, cycling, and walking are all active exercise recovery activities.
Passive exercise recovery - Passive recovery involves pausing your workout and resting. This is a state of complete inactiveness.
For regular healthy individuals, active exercise recovery is more beneficial than passive exercise recovery.
Some people can quickly recover from intense workouts, while others take more time.
Muscles need anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to recover and rebuild.
If you are overworking the same muscles every day without any recovery period, you do more harm to your body than good.
Lactic acid builds up in the body due to intense exercise. Lactic acid build-up can cause sore muscles and pain. Exercise recovery prevents lactic acid build-up.
Muscle soreness is a common problem after exercise. Active exercise recovery can help prevent this.
Recovery prevents the onset of fatigue and keeps your energy levels high. Both of these factors augment athletic performance.
Overtraining syndrome (OTS) - Overtraining syndrome is a condition where you exercise more than what your body can handle. Overtraining results in the body not being able to recover back from the workout.
Lack of exercise recovery can result in overtraining syndrome. Here are the signs of OTS to look out for.
- Consistent muscle pain and soreness
- Continuously high heart rate
- Irritability and mental breakdown
- Constant feeling of tiredness
The average time needed to recover from exercises depends on your genes. Some people are genetically designed to recover quickly, while others take more time. While many genes are involved in deciding your exercise recovery rate, two commonly discussed ones are the MMP3 and CKM.
The MMP3 gene helps produce a protein that breaks down collagen, fibronectin, and other kinds of structural proteins as a part of normal growth and development. This enzyme is important for repairing muscles and tissues.
A 2009 study discussed the effects of three polymorphisms of the MMP3 gene and the risks of developing Achilles tendinopathy. This is a condition that causes pain, inflammation, and stiffness of the Achilles tendon. Achilles tendon is a long band of fiber that connects the calf to the bone in the heel.
One of the major causes of Achilles tendinopathy is excessive workout or strain in the calf muscle because of the lack of sufficient exercise recovery period.
rs591058, rs679620, and rs650108 are three variants of the MMP3 gene that can increase your risk for developing Achilles tendinopathy. The CC genotype of rs591058, GG genotype of rs679620, and the AA genotype of rs650108 contribute to the risk.
The exercise recovery time may be higher for people who have these genotypes.
Creatine Kinase, M-type (CKM) is a gene that helps maintain stable energy levels in the body. This gene is also associated with muscle repair and inflammatory response.
A variant of this gene has been associated with exercise recovery time. People with the TT genotype require more time for exercise recovery when compared to the GG genotype.
Age - As you grow older, it takes a longer time to recover from the strain you put on your muscles and tissues. Exercise-related injuries also take a longer time to heal.
Diet - The food you eat can extend or shorten your recovery period after intense exercise. If you eat nutritious and healthy foods, you recover faster from the strain of exercising.
The kind of exercise - Low-intensity exercises require shorter recovery periods, while high-intensity exercises warrant longer ones.
Physical state - Healthier individuals have shorter exercise recovery periods than those with existing medical conditions.
Stress levels - Mentally stressed people find themselves taking a long time to recover from intense exercises. Highly stressed individuals will do better with low-intensity exercises like yoga and Tai Chi.
Taking long days of break from exercising - Just like how a machine that keeps running every day works better than a machine that is left to rust with inactivity, your body will recover faster from exercise if you keep training. On days you don’t exercise, practice low-intensity stretching, yoga, or Tai Chi.
In the absence of adequate rest periods, the following can happen:
- Difficulty in working out
- Weakness in the body
- Difficulty in sleeping due to muscle aches
- Unexplained tiredness and depression
- Reduction in your performance
- Lowered immunity leading to frequent diseases and infection
Hydrate - There is nothing more important than hydrating your body after exercise. You lose a lot of fluids while working out, and if you do not replace them, it takes a longer time for your body to recover from the stress of exercising.
Opt for post-workout snacks - Just like how you provide your body with water, giving it proteins and carbohydrates to compensate for the calories burnt helps with faster exercise recovery. Along with exercise recovery exercises, snack on healthy protein-rich foods.
- Whole grain toast with peanut butter/almond butter
- A whole banana
- A bowl of Greek yogurt with fruits
- A protein bar
- Protein shake
- Pita and hummus
- A handful of nuts and seeds
- Roasted peanuts
As you keep working on exercise recovery techniques, the time taken for recovering from a workout session reduces. When you let your body recover after exercise every single time, your muscles and tissues will thank you for it and get stronger and recover faster.
Here are some popular recovery exercises/techniques you can try out.
- Stretching on a foam roll
- Simple stretching exercises
- Holding stretch poses for 30-60 seconds
- Slow walking on a treadmill
- Tai Chi
- Elevating your legs up on a wall for 5-10 minutes
Know if you are genetically designed to take more time to recover from exercises. If so, consider combining intense and low-intense workouts to prevent risks of injuries. Also, give your body enough rest.
Almost any part of the body can suffer an injury during sports or exercise. But, the term ‘sports injury’ is used to describe injuries of the musculoskeletal system. This includes:
- Injuries of muscles
- Injuries of bones
- Injuries of ligaments and tendons
- Injuries of other associated tissues like cartilage.
Traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries are relatively rare during sports or exercise.
Sports injuries are an unfortunate side effect of working out and training. It commonly occurs due to overtraining, improper conditioning, and wrong form or technique. Warm-up and cool-down stretches play a very important role in injury prevention.
Common sports injuries:
- Achilles tendon
- Tennis elbow
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Anterior cruciate ligament tears
- Low back pain
- Ankle sprain
MCT1 gene, also called SLC16A1, encodes the Monocarboxylate transporter 1 (MCT) protein. It regulates the transport of lactate and other substances. It also removes lactic acid from the muscles.
The build-up of lactic acid makes the intracellular environment acidic and degenerates the muscles. Both of these can make a person injury-prone.
MCT1 gene influences the amount of MCT you produce. The more you produce, the quicker is the clearance rate. This reduces muscle degeneration and injury risk.
rs1049434 of MCT1 Gene and Injury Risk
According to a study, rs1049434 AA genotype was associated with a higher incidence of injuries in elite football players. Further, the study also hypothesized that the T allele could play a protective role in the pathogenesis of indirect muscle injuries.
The MMP3 gene encodes the enzyme matrix metalloproteinase 3 (also called Stromelysin-1), which is associated with the breakdown of extracellular matrix during the normal physiological process.
MMP3 is required to maintain the mechanical properties of tendons. An elevated expression of the MMP3 gene is associated with increased degeneration of the matrix, resulting in an imbalance.
rs679620 of MMP3 Gene and Injury Risk
A study explored the potential relationship between the SNP rs679620 and tendon injury.
The G allele was associated with an increased risk of Achilles tendinopathy (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19042922/).
Non-genetic factors can be modifiable or non-modifiable. Modifiable factors can be tuned through specific training methods. Examples of modifiable factors include:
- Body composition (e.g., body weight, fat mass, BMI, anthropometry)
- Fitness level (e.g., muscle strength/power, VO2 max, joint ROM)
- Skill level (e.g., sports-specific technique, postural stability)
- Psychological factors (e.g., competitiveness, motivation, perception of risk)
Some non-modifiable factors include:
- Age (maturation, aging)
- Anatomy (alignment, intercondylar notch width)
- Health (previous injury, joint instability)
- Anatomy (bone architecture)
Get the right gear: Wear comfortable clothes that let your body move naturally and breathe freely.
Strengthen your muscles: Conditioning exercises like squats, burpees, resistance training, and aerobics can help strengthen your muscles.
Use the right technique: There’s a ‘right’ form for each exercise. Practicing that form is important to avoid unnecessary strain on the muscles.
Take adequate rest: Getting enough rest aids muscle recovery and prevents muscle injuries.
Hydrate continuously: Sweating results in the loss of essential fluids; they need to be replaced to sustain the exercise
Get stretching: Both warm-up and cool-down stretches are essential to prevent injuries.