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Regardless of what your fitness goals may be, aerobic capacity is an important metric to focus on. It determines how well your body can utilize oxygen. Simply put, the better the aerobic capacity, the longer you will be able to sustain exercises. Aerobic training not only helps achieve peak fitness but also improves cardiac health and respiratory functions. An individual's genetic makeup can determine up to 50% of their aerobic capacity by influencing factors such as antioxidant production, heart functioning, etc. The analysis of such genes and their variants can give a clearer idea of the kind of training you need to take on to achieve maximum results.

Aerobic Capacity: How do you define it

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. 

Calculating Your Aerobic Capacity

One of the best ways to estimate your cardiovascular fitness is by calculating your Aerobic Capacity.

If you are in a fitness center, one of the following two techniques can be used to measure your AC

A simpler and less accurate way of measurement is a walk/run test

This requires walking/running at the maximum speed you can and measuring your heart rate at the end of it.

With this measurement, you can use one of the many online calculators that are available to check your Aerobic Capacity.

For instance, Rockport walk test is one such calculator that requires the input of your heart rate, time of the run/walk, and your weight to calculate your Aerobic Capacity.

The Genetic Story

Genes majorly control a lot of factors that have an association with the fitness levels of an individual.

According to a study in 2016, 155 genetic markers were found to be associated with better athletic performance, 93 of which were endurance-related markers, and the other 62 were power/strength related markers.

Polymorphisms of ACE, ADRB, ACTN3, PPARGC1A were one of the first genetic markers found to be associated with athletic performance.

There's another famous exercise genetics study conducted by a consortium of five universities in the United States and Canada revealed astonishing variation in the aerobic capacity amongst the 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

These can be attributed to the variants of genes like NRF1, NRF2, VEGF, PPARA, etc. that an individual carries. 

The nuclear respiratory factor (NRF2) gene influences the vo2 max. NRF2 regulates the expression of antioxidant proteins and thus can influence the oxygen uptake.

Carriers of certain genotypes may respond better to training than the others.

AA57.5 % higher training response
CCNormal training response

Some genes affect a few secondary traits that exert influence on aerobic capacity.

For example, genetic variations in VEGF in the gene influence heart structure, size, and function. These have an impact on the stroke volume which is an important determinant of aerobic performance.  

GGReduced aerobic performance
CCNormal aerobic performance 

Improving your Aerobic Capacity

Genetics is only 50% of the fitness story.

The rest wires down to other factors like your lifestyle, your eating habits, and your training. 

Getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week is vital to ensure a longer healthier life

Knowing why

Augmenting your aerobic capacity can result in better blood and oxygen flow to muscles.

Therefore, 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, and 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:

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.

Knowing how

Highly recommended 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 

  1. 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.
  2. Swimming: Water aerobics in general, are easy on your joints due to the buoyancy offered by the water.
  3. Cycling: Cycling is an amazing leg work out and exerts lesser stress on joints in comparison to walking or running.

Some of the aerobic exercises that you can do at home include:

Other added benefits

If you are already not inspired to take up aerobics, take a look at the benefits you can acquire from aerobic training.

  1. Regular aerobic training improves your overall fitness.
  2. It reduces the risk of certain health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart diseases, colon, and breast cancer. 
  3. Management of stress and other mental conditions, including anxiety and depression, can be made easier by including aerobic exercises in your workout schedule.
  4. Since aerobic exercises target larger muscle groups in your body, it helps with weight loss
  5. For people with asthma, aerobic exercises help reduce both the frequency and intensity of the asthma attacks.
  6. Brisk walking/running can improve overall bone health. In addition, studies have shown that regular aerobic training can reduce the risk of osteoarthritis.
  7. It improves the body's ability to use stored fat as energy.


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Published on 27 July, 2020

The COL5A1 gene is associated with the synthesis of type V collagen, a key constituent of ligaments and tendons. Specific alleles of this gene are known to either increase or decrease the risk of injury.

Does your 23andme, Ancestry DNA, FTDNA raw data have COL5A1 gene variant information?

23andMe (Use your 23andme raw data to know your COL5A1 Variant)
v1 23andmePresent
v2 23andmePresent
v3 23andmePresent
v4 23andmePresent
V5 23andme (current chip)Present
AncestryDNA  (Use your ancestry DNA raw data to know your COL5A1 Variant)
v1 ancestry DNAPresent
V2 ancestry DNA (current chip)Present
Family Tree DNA  (Use your FTDNA raw data to know your COL5A1 Variant)
OmniExpress microarray chipPresent

Association with Muscle Injury:

A study conducted on people with Achilles tendinopathy showed that those with the CC genotype of COL5A1 were associated with a lowered risk of developing Achilles tendinopathy compared to people with the T variant. Similar results were seen among people with anterior cruciate ligament injuries, again people with the CC genotype were found in lower numbers in a group of people with an ACL injury.

Association with Flexibility:

In terms of flexibility, people with the T variant of the gene are associated with a lower range of motion, implying that they could be less flexible. People with the TT genotype have tendons that are stiffer than those with the CC genotype. The stiff tendons and the lowered range of motion could be the reason behind the potential increase in the risk of injury among people with the TT genotype.  

Association with Endurance:

Stiffer Achilles tendons have an increased capacity to store and return energy thus providing an advantage in endurance running. This would mean that people with stiff Achilles tendons would require a lower amount of energy for every step, making such runners more efficient. This is what makes people with the T variant (less flexible) better suited for long-distance running events. Support for this theory comes from an ultra-marathon running study conducted in 2011. The study reported that people with the T variant had stiffer tendons but finished significantly faster than people with the C variant of the gene Col5A1.

Association with Likelihood of Fatigue:

In a study conducted on people with a self-reported history of exercise-associated muscle cramping, people with the C variant were shown to be over-represented among people with no history of exercise-associated muscle fatigue.

TT[Limitation] More likely to have stiff tendons and increased risk of injuries and tendinopathies. [Limitation] Likely to have decreased range of motion (flexibility) [Advantage] Better endurance [Limitation] More likely to have a higher risk of muscle fatigue/ muscle crampingLikely better at endurance running than the C variant Increased risk for injuries - warm-ups and stretching before workouts are important to avoid injury. Recuperative therapies such as massages can help
CT[Limitation] More likely to have stiff tendons and increased risk of injuries and tendinopathies. [Limitation] Likely to have decreased range of motion (flexibility) [Advantage] Better endurance [Limitation] More likely to have a higher risk of muscle fatigue/ muscle crampingLikely better at endurance running than the C variant Increased risk for injuries - warm-ups and stretching before workouts are important to avoid injury. Recuperative therapies such as massages can help
CC[Advantage] More likely to have an increased range of motion (Flexibility) [Advantage] Lower risk of ACL injuries and Tendinopathies [Limitation] Lower endurance [Advantage] More likely to have a lower risk of muscle fatigue/ muscle crampingGreater flexibility due to an increased range of motion allows you to perform a variety of different exercises easily. Lower risk of injury allows you to remain active and train often.
  1. Brown JC, Miller CJ, Posthumus M, Schwellnus MP, Collins M “The COL5A1 gene, ultra-marathon running performance, and range of motion.” Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2011 Dec
  2. Posthumus M, September AV, O'Cuinneagain D, van der Merwe W, Schwellnus MP, Collins M “The COL5A1 gene is associated with increased risk of anterior cruciate ligament ruptures in female participants.” Am J Sports Med. 2009
  3. September AV1, Cook J, Handley CJ, van der Merwe L, Schwellnus MP, Collins M. “Variants within the COL5A1 gene are associated with Achilles tendinopathy in two .populations.” Br J Sports Med. 2009 May

“Nutrigenetics, fitness genetics, health genetics are all nascent but rapidly growing areas within human genetics. The information provided herein is based on preliminary scientific studies and it is to be read and understood in that context.”

Stretching is one of the most fundamental components of a fitness or exercise regime.

Performing stretching exercises before any fitness activity allows the body to become more flexible and less prone to injury. Stretching after exercise is also equally important. It allows the muscles to get back to their normal form and helps reduce muscle soreness and pain.

Flexibility is attributable to the protein collagen that surrounds cells. In fact, 25-30% of whole body protein is collagen! There are different types of collagens, each regulated by different genes. Collagen type V is important for flexibility. The more the flexible you are, the less you need to stretch before and after exercise. However, the presence of flexibility can lead to reduced exercise performance since more energy is required for muscle stabilising activity.

Flexibility is an indispensable aspect of fitness as it reflects the propensity for exercise-associated muscle injury. Your degree of flexibility and risk for tendinopathy as determined through genes are helpful in deciding the type and duration of your pre and post stretching exercises which would make your fitness regimen more comfortable for you to follow.

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