The benefits of physical activity and exercise are no guarded secret, however the fact that exercises can help alter our DNA expression is something scientists have discovered. Dr. Juleen Zierath, a professor of physiology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm conducted a research that revealed significant activity in the muscle-related genes; before and after exercise. More genes were turned on in the cells after exercise.
Methylation, a molecular process, can limit the cells ability to access or switch on, certain genes. By controlling methylation in certain cells at specific times, the body regulates which genes in the DNA are activated. Methylation also helps the muscle cells to pump out the right enzymes and nutrients the muscle needs to get energy and burn calories everytime you hit the weights. The more the intensity of the exercise, the more the methyl groups are on the move. The muscle biopsies of volunteers, taken after 80% sessions of intensive workouts, showed more RNA, which is the first by product of gene activity; than the samples taken after 40% sessions.
When muscle cells are geared up for intense activity, calcium is released, thus fuelling the contraction process. When scientists blocked the calcium release, the muscles didn’t contract much.
Although DNA is inherited and the code remains the same, with exercise, the cells increased the activity of certain muscle-related genes. It was also found that after exercise, the DNA in the muscle cell had fewer methyl groups attached, which suggests that muscles have adjusted to increased metabolic demands of the exercise. This drives in theory that exercise has profound effects even deep within the cells. Exercise prepares the body for further exercise by modifying DNA in the muscle cells.
Dr. Juleen Zierath thus concludes that exercise is not just medicine for general health but has a far reaching effect that also enables altering DNA in the cells.