First study shows small doses of exercise changes gene expression

Posted Jul 3, 2013 by Kathleen Blanchard
For the first time researchers have mapped what happens to our genes with just a little exercise. Scientists have discovered small doses of exercise changes our innate DNA related to fat storage to help fight obesity and type-2 diabetes.
Exercise equipment under the pergolas invites to stretch the muscles while enjoying the ocean view.
Exercise equipment under the pergolas invites to stretch the muscles while enjoying the ocean view.
The news is positive for anyone who finds it difficult to exercise from lack of time, existing health conditions or other physical constraints. It means just taking a short walk from the office to the car, going up and down the steps at home or walking through the grocery aisles or mall indeed has previously unknown health benefits.
Charlotte Ling, Associate Professor at Lund University Diabetes Centre said in a press release, "Our study shows the positive effects of exercise, because the epigenetic pattern of genes that affect fat storage in the body changes.”
We all know we can’t change our DNA. But thanks to studies of epigenetics, we now know the way our genes express can be altered through a process known as ‘DNA methylation’ that switches genes on and off, explained simply and briefly in the video below.
For their study, published in PloS Genetics, researchers enrolled three slightly overweight but healthy men, whose agewas around 35. The men had not engaged in any previous exercise. Next they watched what happened when the men attended spinning and aerobic classes over a six-month period.
Tina Rönn, Associate Researcher at Lund said the men attended classes an average of 1.8 times a week, though they were supposed to go 3 times a week.
An analysis found epigenetic changes in 7,000 of the men’s genes using technology that analyzes 480,000 genome positions.
The researchers also looked at gene methylation related to type 2 diabetes and obesity.
"We found changes in those genes too, which suggests that altered DNA methylation as a result of physical activity could be one of the mechanisms of how these genes affect the risk of disease,” says Rönn. She adds that mapping DNA methylation in fat cells has never before been studied.
The study is the first to show that exercise, even in small doses, can change our gene expression and the way fat is stored to lower our risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.