With the new year upon us, many people are probably making all sorts of resolutions having to do with exercising more. We all know that exercise is good for our health, but this article by Jonathan Landsman of NaturalHealth365.com will add to your understanding of one reason why, as it explains how exercise effects our DNA, positively impacting over 4,000 genes….
This is a wake-up call for all Americans. Current research, produced by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, reveals that less than 5% of the U.S. adult population participate in 30 minutes of physical activity per day. And, for children, it’s far worse thanks to wireless technology and all these computer gadgets – which have kids spending around 7 hours per day on computer screens, cell phones and TVs.
To stop disease – we’ve got to get physical. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 4 in 5 adults lead sedentary or minimally active lifestyles that fall short of the recommended 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic exercise each week. Unfortunately, a lack of exercise not only affects physical fitness and weight, but it may also affect a person’s longevity and risk of chronic, degenerative diseases like cancer.
Exercise positively influences the expression of our DNA
Researchers have long been trying to understand the connections between exercise and disease risk. A new study from Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet, however, is painting a bigger picture, revealing that the secret may be in human DNA – specifically the molecules located inside of genes known as epigenetics.
The study reveals that regular exercise has a direct and positive influence on more than 4,000 genes, and inactivity has a negative effect on those same genes. This research highlights the significance of ‘epigenetic methylation’ – which is really quite interesting.
Epigenetics help modulate processes within the body. While the genes in a DNA sequence are fixed, the epigenetic molecules within them are capable of undergoing temporary changes via a process known as methylation. During methylation, additional molecules may be added to an existing group or some may be taken away.
Science reveals how exercise can dramatically improve our health
Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet studied epigenetic methylation in healthy adults before and after completing a three-month endurance training program. They followed 23 healthy young adults who were asked to participate in 45 minutes of one-legged cycling four times per week.
The researchers used the inactive leg as a control, and took leg muscle biopsies to evaluate epigenetic methylation that occurred between the start and end of the study. Of the 20,000 genes measured for methylation, 4,000 genes were directly and positively affected by exercise.
The correlation between exercise and epigenetic changes were closely linked to methylation. Many of the same genes that experienced increased methylation during the study were responsible for the metabolism of carbohydrates and skeletal muscle adaptation. On the other hand, the genes that had an opposite reaction – that is, they had decreasing methylation – were closely linked to biological inflammation.
Make exercise part of your New Year’s resolutions
Ultimately, research is proving what we already know: Exercise is good for you. It increases metabolic function, improves muscle health, and even helps prevent chronic disease. Specifically, endurance training has a direct effect on the overall health of the body, including the degree of inflammation within it. But, remember, exercise is NOT supposed to be painful to reap the rewards. Just get out and enjoy being active.
If one of the benefits of exercising is living a longer (healthier) life, then everyone should be doing it. Too many people suffer from poor circulation, chronic inflammation and fatigue. What’s the solution? Eat a healthier diet – loaded with fresh (organic) plant foods – and exercise, as often as possible.
So, here’s an exercise option to consider. I liked this idea of “co-mingling” gratitude and yoga (I may have a problem with pose #3, but I’m certainly an expert at doing #5 :-)). Exercise and gratitude are a winning combination for your mind, body and spirit, and a good way to start off the new year! Another option…. take the Plank Challenge on New Year’s Day and think about things you’re grateful for during the time you plank each day. Will help with maintaining a positive attitude, plus make the time seem to pass faster!
We’re used to expressing gratitude around a holiday meal, but many of us have probably never considered that fitness could help bring more gratitude into our lives. Research shows that acknowledging what you’re thankful for can lead to a happier, healthier life. Like gratitude, yoga makes you healthier, too. And the physical and mental awareness that comes from a regular practice can help you feel gratitude toward yourself, others and your body. These five yoga poses will keep the feeling strong long after the hoopla of the holiday has faded.
5 Yoga Poses to Give Thanks
1. Cat/Cow Pose (Marjaryasana/Bitilasana)
Like a cat’s first big morning stretch, moving through a few cat/cows can really wake the body up and help you tune in. That’s why it serves as such a good warm-up in yoga classes, says DailyBurn yoga expert Briohny Smyth. It’s a great move for first thing in the morning or for when you’ve been sitting too long.
How to: Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position, making sure your hands are aligned with your shoulders, your knees are in line with your hips, and your head is in a neutral position. Then, slowly lift your gaze, chest, and butt as you inhale (cow pose). On the exhale, round your back toward the ceiling while lowering your gaze (cat pose). “This is a great movement because it helps you get in touch with the body’s capability of moving and getting rid of the kinks,” says Smyth. And who wouldn’t be thankful for that?
2. Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
While it’s one of the basics, warrior II is considered among the most powerful of all the yoga asanas. The reason: It can help you feel gratitude toward the strength of your own body, says Smyth.
How to: Begin standing with your legs out wide and both feet parallel to the front of your mat. Next, pivot your front foot so it’s facing the front of the room and bend that knee deeply while keeping your back leg long and strong. Raise your arms up to shoulder level on either side of you, palms facing down, and move your gaze toward the front of the room as you bend your knee even deeper while keeping your torso upright. “While you’re trying really hard to keep your arms up and bend your knees deep, you realize that just sitting in the pose makes you feel present,” says Smyth.
RELATED: The 11 Best Yoga Apps
3. Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)
Another powerful (and advanced) pose is the handstand. Not only does this impressive inversion require a strong back and shoulders, the core, glutes and legs work equally as hard. “When you’re standing on just your hands you’re grateful for the strength of your body to know what a handstand feels like,” Smyth says.
How to: Start in downward facing dog with your fingertips a few inches away from a wall, hugging your upper arms toward one another and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Bend one knee and step the foot in closer to the wall, with the other leg remaining straight behind you (this will be your swing leg). Use the bent leg to hop up while your swing leg arcs toward the wall. At first, these hops may be enough, but eventually you’ll build the strength and finesse to kick both legs all the way to the wall. With even more practice, you won’t need to rely on the wall and will instead be able to trust your own strength.
4. Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana Variation)
Stretches, especially hip stretches, allow you to connect with the tightness and tension in your body and mindfully, consciously let it go, Smyth says. “Any time you bring awareness to where you’re tight and can release it, you feel grateful.” Pigeon is a deep hip opener that has that effect.
How to: To begin, start in downward facing dog, bend one knee and place it on your mat a little wider than your hip, with your shin parallel to the front of the mat. Fold forward over your shin with the other leg extended behind you, keeping the hips even as they press toward the floor.
5. Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Savasana, the final pose in a yoga class, is an opportunity to be still, calm and present while soaking in the benefits of your practice. “It’s a great place to express gratitude and even connect with and feel gratitude for the people and things you have around you,” says Smyth.
How to: Settle into it by lying on your back with your legs slightly apart and your arms extended at your side, palms facing upward. Inhale and exhale through your nose, allowing your breath, muscles and mind to be completely relaxed.
(from GoGratitude.com’s Gratitude Wave newsletter)
Related Self-help Health posts:
Gratitude And The DNA Connection
Leave a comment about which physical activity makes you feel grateful or what exercise routine you plan on incorporating into your daily/weekly routine for the new year.
Happy New Year & Salud!
p.s. Be sure to subscribe to Self-help Health so you don’t miss any future posts. Also check out my new website Evolution Made Easier and blog of the same name for more helpful information, tips, tools and resources.
Disclaimer: Please note that any information here is provided as a guideline only, and is not meant to substitute for the advice of your physician, nutritionist, trained healthcare practitioner, and/or inner guidance system. Always consult a professional before undertaking any change to your normal health routine.