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Overview

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 engaged more while moving 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).

Importance Of Flexibility

Reduced Injury Risk

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.

Improved Balance and Posture

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.

Improved Athletic Performance

A study that explored the effects of yoga on athletes reported that yoga improved flexibility in adult athletes. Flexibility, in turn, improved athletic performance.

Lesser Body Pain

When your body is more flexible, the muscles are better relaxed. This reduces general body pain in adults and children.

Reduced Risk of Heart Diseases

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.

Is Flexibility Genetic?

The Influence of ACTN3 Gene on Flexibility

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 Influence of COL5A1 Gene on Flexibility

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

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.

Non-genetic Factors Affecting Flexibility

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 It a Problem?

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.

Recommendations To Improve Flexibility

Exercise Right

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.

Practice Static Flexible Exercises

Static flexible exercises require you to hold a stretch or a position for 30 -60 seconds before relaxing. Static flexible exercises help improve flexibility.

Relax Your Muscles

Taking a warm water bath can instantly relax your muscles and improve your flexibility.

Professional massages

When done right, massages can help improve flexibility and your range of motion, keeping your joints stronger and agile.

Hydration

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.

Stay Stress-free

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.

Summary

References

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2017.01080/full
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4241924/
https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/gene/col5a1/#conditions
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4523805/
https://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1113/EP085974
https://sites.psu.edu/kinescfw/health-education/exercise-articles/the-importance-of-flexibility-and-mobility/
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002929707635290

About Xcode Life's Gene Fitness Report

 

 

Update on 16th January, 2021

Abstract

ACTN3, popularly called the Speed Gene, is responsible for the production of α-actinin-3, a protein expressed in fast-firing skeletal muscle fibers. This protein is deficient in approximately 1.5 billion people worldwide.

Previous studies indicate that α-actinin-3 is associated with muscle function, and an α-actinin-3 deficiency adversely affects performance in speed and power activities. Recent research suggests that α-actinin-3 deficiency generates heat in the body (thermogenesis), and as a result, α-actinin-3 deficient humans adapt better to lower temperatures.

What Is -actinin-3?

The α-actinin-3 protein was first identified during research into muscular dystrophy defects. Further studies showed that a deficiency of α-actinin-3 was common- roughly 18% of the world population has an ACTN3 deficiency mutation. This deficiency correlates with the following factors:

A previous study exploring the evolutionary implications of α-actinin-3 deficiency indicated that a version of the ACTN3 gene became more abundant as humans migrated out of Africa into the colder climates of Northern and Central Europe.

Studies also suggest that an X derivative of the ACTN3 gene is overexpressed among marathoners and endurance athletes but underexpressed in sprinters. The X derivative indicates an incomplete ACTN3 gene and is thereby associated with α-actinin-3 deficiency.

In general, an α-actinin-3 deficiency is detrimental for sprint and power activities. Evolutionary evidence also indicates a strong positive selection of the X derivative of the ACTN3 gene in European and East Asian populations. Positive selection is the process by which the "advantageous" changes or gene variants are passed on consistently in a population.

Loss of α-actinin-3 and Better Cold Resilience

A study conducted by a team of researchers examined the mechanism responsible for the positive selection of the X derivative of the ACTN3 gene. It aimed to understand the thermogenic role of skeletal muscle during cold exposure in humans.

The study was conducted on the following two groups: Healthy males aged 18 to 40 years, residing in Kaunas, Lithuania. They followed moderate physical activity and had no exposure to an extreme temperature for at least three months prior to the study. Thirteen age-matched 3-month-old wild-type mice and mice with inactivated ACTN3 genes, housed in a specific-pathogen-free environment. They were maintained at a constant ambient temperature of 22°C and 50% humidity on a 12 h light-dark cycle, with limited access to food and water.

The following parameters were measured in humans:

Based on the above parameters, the following were calculated:

Coldwater exposure was conducted as follows:

The following parameters were examined in both humans and mice:

Apart from these, protein analyses in humans and RNA sequencing in mice were performed, and the data obtained were statistically analyzed.

The Results of the Study

The study observed that the percentage of individuals able to maintain their body temperature above 35.5°C during the cold-water exposure was higher in the ACTN3 deficient (XX) group than the ACTN3 efficient (RR) group. However, there was a significant overall increase in energy consumption induced by the cold irrespective of the ACTN3 gene status. This implies that α-actinin-3-deficient individuals exhibit superior protection of core body temperature during cold exposure without a corresponding increase in energy consumption.

Researchers suggest a physiological mechanism underlying the energy-efficient cold protection in XX individuals. Mammals regulate their body temperature when exposed to acute cold temperatures through involuntary muscle contraction. This is colloquially referred to as shivering - this activity was twice as high in RR individuals as in XX individuals. In individuals with the X derivative, these contractions most likely happen in slow twitch-type muscles with a heat-generating increase in muscle tone. This conserves more energy when compared to shivering.

The X derivative of the ACTN3 gene occurs more commonly in people living in colder climates, indicating an evolutionary survival advantage of α-actinin-3 deficiency as humans migrated to colder places.

In conclusion, α-actinin-3-deficient humans use a more energy-efficient mechanism of generating body heat, thereby exhibiting improved cold tolerance.

Recommendations to Improve Cold Resilience

Summary

Xcode Life’s Gene Fitness report analyzes genes associated with your physical fitness, sports performance, and athletic ability. The report can help modify your fitness training according to your genetic type for better results.

Genetics and Fitness

Genetics is becoming more popular in the field of sports and fitness. Professional sports teams around the world are beginning to incorporate genetics in their fitness regime. Research shows that your efficiency in performing certain physical activities is linked to your genes.

Gene Fitness Report

The Gene Fitness Report profiles genes that have been shown to influence endurance, performance, aerobic capacity, power, strength, and other attributes related to fitness. 

The Key Takeaways section of the report highlights how you are likely to respond to power and endurance exercises. Based on your genetic type, you will also find a personalized exercise plan, including the frequency, duration, intensity, and type of exercise that would best suit you.

Xcode Life Gene Fitness: Key Takeaways
Xcode Life Gene Fitness report: Key Takeaways 2

The Summary Table in the report indicates your outcome for each trait.

summary_fit.png

Along with your outcome, the details of the genes analyzed for each trait are also provided. The report comes with personalized recommendations based on your results. These recommendations are to be followed only after consulting a trained fitness professional. You can click on “Learn More” for more information on each trait.

Gene Fitness report: Learn more

What are the traits covered in this report?

The report analyzes genes associated with 16 fitness traits which include, power, flexibility, exercise motivation, the likelihood of injury, and weight loss or weight gain with exercise. For a comprehensive list of the traits covered, click here.

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.

Importance of Aerobic Capacity

Improves Cardiovascular Health

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.

Aids Better Sleep

A study reported that aerobic exercises improve sleep quality in adults with insomnia.

Helps Ward Off Viral Diseases

Improving your aerobic capacity can boost your immune system and gear it up to fight viral infections like cold and flu.

Increases Your Stamina

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.

Lowers Blood Pressure

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.

Boosts Your Mood

Aerobic exercising helps alleviate the symptoms of mental conditions like depression and anxiety. It also promotes relaxation of the mind.

Reduces Chronic Pain

Low impact cardio activities can help with chronic back pain. They also may help improve endurance and get back some muscle function.

Helps with a Longer Life

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.

How does Genetics Influence Aerobic Capacity?

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.
The results
- 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 and Aerobic Capacity

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.

Non-genetic Factors that Influence Aerobic Capacity

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.

Improving Aerobic Capacity

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.

List of aerobic exercises

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:
- Skipping
- Burpees
- Squats
- Jumping jacks
- Running in place

Summary

  1. Aerobic activities increase the oxygen availability for muscles by increasing the physical capacity of the heart, lungs, and blood vessels.
  2. Genetics partly influences the aerobic capacity of an individual. The VEGF-A gene plays an important role in vascular development. According to a study, the C allele of SNP rs2010963 in the VEGF-A gene is associated with higher aerobic capacity.
  3. Improving your aerobic fitness can help improve your cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, aid better sleep, and reduce chronic pain.
  4. HIIT and LISS workouts can help improve aerobic fitness. Some at-home exercises like skipping, squats, and jumping jacks also increase your aerobic capacity.

Reference

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1389945710002868
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3109/08037051.2013.778003
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21633119
https://www.pbrc.edu/heritage/
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/226018635_Polymorphism_of_the_vascular_endothelial_growth_factor_gene_VEGF_and_aerobic_performance_in_athletes
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4968829/

 

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:

Types of Exercise Motivation

There are two types of motivation, namely, extrinsic and intrinsic.

Extrinsic Motivation

Some examples of extrinsic motivation or external motivators are:

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation is something that comes from within. Some internal motivators are:

How Do Genes Influence Exercise Motivation?

BDNF Gene and Exercise Motivation

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.

Non-genetic Factors Which Affect 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.

Recommendations to stay motivated

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.

Summary

  1. While a lot of people enthusiastically initiate exercising with a future goal in mind, only 50% stay on the routine after six months. Many biological, social, and behavioral factors influence the motivation to exercise.
  2. Certain genes have been implicated in exercise motivation. BDNF is one such gene that encodes a protein found in the appetite and weight control regions of the brain. rs6525 is an SNP in the BDNF gene. The G allele of this SNP has been associated with a lower motivation to exercise.
  3. Other factors like lifestyle and psychology also come in to play in exercise motivation. For example, a sedentary lifestyle and low self-esteem are associated with a lower motivation to exercise.
  4. Setting realistic fitness goals and rewarding yourself after a good workout are effective ways to keep yourself motivated. It is also recommended to find a workout buddy who can act as a support system.

Reference

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/254301548_Effect_of_Goal_Setting_on_Motivation_and_Adherence_in_a_Six-Week_Exercise_Program
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24805993/

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

Importance of Endurance Training

Improves Bone Density

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.

Enhanced Immune System

Endurance training helps increase the white blood cells, which are the quarterback of the immune system.

Improved Metabolism

Endurance and resistance training help build muscle mass. As your muscle mass builds up, your body burns more calories.

Better Mental Health

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.

Impacts Weight Control

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.

How Does Genetics Influence Endurance?

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 and Endurance

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 and Endurance

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.

How Can You Improve Your 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.

Get Caffeinated
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.

Exercises to boost your endurance

Summary

  1. Endurance allows your body to sustain exercises for a longer duration. There are two components of endurance, namely, cardiovascular and muscular endurance.
  2. Endurance training offers many health benefits, including improving bone density, enhancing the immune system, and regulating body weight.
  3. Genes that influence endurance play a role in the percentage of different types of muscle fibers, the ability of blood vessels to carry blood, and how the body uses fuel for energy production.
  4. ACTN3 is a gene that is associated with muscle fiber distribution. The presence of the T allele indicates a higher number of slow-twitch fibers, which are important for endurance. People with TT type tend to be better at endurance-based activities.
  5. Listening to music and caffeine consumption can improve an individual’s endurance. Exercises that boost endurance include jogging, swimming, cycling, and yoga.

Reference

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1642145/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27287076/
https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/gene/ace/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9737775/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5741991/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26824906/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4948383/
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/caffeine-tolerance

 

Overview

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).

Importance Of Flexibility

Reduced Injury Risk

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.

Improved Balance and Posture

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.

Improved Athletic Performance

A study that explored the effects of yoga on athletes reported that yoga improved flexibility in adult athletes. Flexibility, in turn, improved athletic performance.

Lesser Body Pain

When your body is more flexible, the muscles are better relaxed. This reduces general body pain in adults and children.

Reduced Risk of Heart Diseases

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.

How Genes Influence Flexibility?

The Influence of ACTN3 Gene on Flexibility

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 Influence of COL5A1 Gene on Flexibility

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

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.

Non-genetic Factors Affecting Flexibility

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 It a Problem?

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.

Recommendations To Improve Flexibility

Exercise Right

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.

Practice Static Flexible Exercises

Static flexible exercises require you to hold a stretch or a position for 30 -60 seconds before relaxing. Static flexible exercises help improve flexibility.

Relax Your Muscles

Taking a warm water bath can instantly relax your muscles and improve your flexibility.

Professional massages

When done right, massages can help improve flexibility and your range of motion, keeping your joints stronger and agile.

Hydration

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.

Stay Stress-free

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.

Summary

References

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2017.01080/full
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4241924/
https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/gene/col5a1/#conditions
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4523805/
https://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1113/EP085974
https://sites.psu.edu/kinescfw/health-education/exercise-articles/the-importance-of-flexibility-and-mobility/
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002929707635290

 

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.

Importance of Strengthening Your Tendons

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.

How Does Genetics Influence Tendon Strength

COL1A1 and Tendon Strength

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 and Tendon Strength

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.

Non-genetic Factors That Influence Tendon Strength

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.

Recommendations to Improve Tendon Strength

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:
-Eccentric exercises
-Partial reps
-Stretching: including a full range of motion–pectoral stretch, calf stretch, front squat.
-Intensity training
-Volume increasing exercises
-Explosive isometrics

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
4. Berries
5. Leafy greens like spinach and kale
6. Soy and soy products like soy milk, tofu, tempeh
7. Chickpeas
8. Salmon
9. Chicken
10. Potatoes
11. Beans and other legumes
12. Bananas

Summary

  1. Tendons are fibrous tissues primarily made of collagen. It connects bones to muscles. The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone.
  2. Tendons are ligaments are crucial for mobility. Strong tendons also help with injury prevention.
  3. Certain genes that are responsible for collagen production also affect the tendon strength. rs12722 is an SNP in the COL5A1 gene that is associated with tendon injuries. People with the CC type have a decreased risk for injuries like ACL tear and Achilles tendinopathy. The TT type, on the other hand, is associated with an increased risk.
  4. Other factors that influence tensile strength include age, levels of physical activity, conditions like diabetes, and pregnancy.
  5. Short-range motion exercises with heavier weights are recommended to improve your tendon strength. Since tendons are made of collagen, collagen-boosting foods like nuts, seeds, salmon, bananas, and potatoes can also help strengthen your tendons.

Reference

https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/gene/col1a1/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5432363/
https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/gene/col5a1/
https://sportsmedicine-open.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s40798-018-0161-0
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5880610/
https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4684-9042-8_54
https://www.surgjournal.com/article/0039-6060(52)90300-0/fulltext

 

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.

Handgrip is classified into three types:

Crush grip - The grip strength of your fingers and palms

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 - The grip strength between your fingers and thumb

Pinch grip is used for opening jars, rock climbing, and throwing objects.

Support grip - Ability to hold on to objects for a longer period of time

A strong support grip required good muscular strength and muscular endurance.

What is the Importance of Handgrip Strength?

A Measure of Mobility

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.

Heart Health

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.

Indicative of Health Conditions

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.

Injury Prevention

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.

Handgrip Strength Could Be An Indicator of Evolutionary Fitness In Men

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.

How Does Genetics Influence Handgrip Strength

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%.

ACTG1 Gene and Handgrip Strength

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 of ACTG1 and Handgrip Strength

rs6565586 is an SNP in the ACTG1 gene. The A allele of this SNP has been associated with a better handgrip strength.

HLA_ Gene and 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 of HLA and Handgrip Strength

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.

Non-genetic Factors Influencing 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.

Recommendations to Improve Handgrip Strength

Exercise Recommendations

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:
-Gripper exercises
-Modified push-ups
-Modified planks
-Two-arm hang
-Offset-hang
-Single-arm hang
-Pullups and chin-ups
-Inverted row
-Hammer curl
-Wrist extension
-Farmer’s walk

Diet Recommendations

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.

Summary

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.

Reference:

https://academic.oup.com/biomedgerontology/article/69/5/559/672523
https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/stronger-hands-linked-to-a-healthier-heart
https://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(15)00267-6/abstract
https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/gene/actg1/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5898311/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26244122
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12188074/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2493054/

 

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