Blame the Unfitness Genes 

Thursday 4th February 2010

Scientists at the University of London may have just found the answer as to why hundreds of us sweat buckets at the gym, run for days on end and still feel out of puff, tired and unfit. Many people will no doubt scoff at the thought of a gene determining whether we feel the benefits of aerobic exercise or not; but according to research conducted worldwide, our DNA may provide the best excuse.

The study, as led by the University of London and whose report can be viewed in the latest edition of the Journal of Applied Physiology has monitored over 600 people’s aerobic exercises worldwide. The volunteers were asked to take part in half an hour’s exercise five days a week in 6, 12 and 20 week programmes before their oxygen level improvements were measured. When someone takes part in continued aerobic exercise the amount of oxygen their body can consume generally increases, which was the case for most of these volunteers. However, one in five of these had an oxygen increase of less than 5% which is so insignificant researchers said it could be missed. Additionally, 30% of the people overall found that their insulin sensitivity wasn’t increased meaning they had no less of a risk of developing diabetes than before. Researchers then set about examining samples from muscle tissue which consequently revealed that there are a group of 30 genes that were involved in the prediction of oxygen intake, with 11 of these possibly having an impact on just how much people could benefit from aerobic exercise.

However, this isn’t an excuse to hang up the running shoes just yet, as the researchers have now patented a blood test that can determine whether or not a patient has these “unfitness genes”. Once determined GP’s, fitness instructors and so on could then use the tests to determine an appropriate fitness regime for the patient. If people are found to carry the “unfitness gene” they could be recommended to change their diets or improve their heart health by taking cholesterol-busting statins. Additionally, a different type of exercise programme may benefit them more than running, biking and so on, e.g. weight training.


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