What's your exercise DNA?


Exercise is a complex science, and a lot of how your body responds to the different types of exercise is dependent on your genetic make-up. But how do you know if the reason you’re not seeing or feeling the benefit from a certain type of exercise because of your genes? Well now it’s as simple as a CSI-style mouth swab.

According to Dr Daniel Meyersfeld CEO of DNAlysis Biotechnology a DNAlysis test comprises a non-invasive cheek swab which uses a long ear bud device that is rubbed against the inside of the cheek to obtain some cells. From here, DNA is extracted in the laboratory and your genes are analysed.

The test takes a rather nifty two weeks to completion and once you have your results Meyersfeld says you should be able to apply it to your gym training programme to make it more tailored and specific to your needs.

Who should do it?

Contrary to the belief that these sort of tests and analysis are available only to elite athletes or sports teams, Meyersfeld says that even a regular gym-goer would benefit from a genetic analysis.

“This test is for anybody looking to optimise their training regime and get maximum benefit from the time in the gym or the time spent training,” he says.

He adds that since everyone responds differently to exercise we all have varying athletic potential. So theoretically if you are training and not seeing any results despite hours spent in the gym, the answer could lie a mouth-swab away.

“By understanding our genetic strengths and limitations we can personalise a training programme to our individual needs,” says Meyersfeld, adding, “we should know that when we are in the gym, we are training in the best possible way for our body.

How the test can boost your performance

Once you’ve done the test you receive a comprehensive report that provides three pieces of information:

  • Your power and/or endurance potential; where do you fall on this spectrum, and should you be doing endurance or power-type training? By working with one of our accredited practitioners you can have this information tailored to your particular fitness goals.
  • Recovery from exercise; we all have an inflammatory response to exercise, but the extent of this response and our ability to recover from it differs between individuals. Time spent away from the gym is as important for the serious trainer as time spent working out, as we need to give our bodies appropriate recovery time to ensure we are fully prepared for the next high intensity training session. Training too soon hinders performance and increases risk of injury.
  • Risk for soft tissue pathology; this ties in very closely with the recovery section. The report describes recovery strategies to enhance recovery; it is here that nutrition plays a critical part. Similarly for injury risk, there are preventive measures that can be taken to try and reduce risk of injury; strength and flexibility training, nutrition, etc. many physiotherapists work in the pre-habilitation space, trying to prevent injury.

Shattered dreams?

So what happens if you take the test and find out that your dream of completing a marathon one day might not be as easy for you as someone with a different genetic make-up? It’s not the end of the road, it just means you might need to alter your training to work with what you are genetically predisposed to be stronger at doing.

 “If you are desperate to finish a Comrades marathon, for example, or you have reached a plateau in the time you take to finish 94.7 cycle race; if you genetic profile shows that you are very high on the power scale and poor with endurance, it could explain why you battle with these distances, it could help you train differently to try and enhance your performance in the race (more power sprints, gym strength work for muscle strength, etc.) and it could in some cases allow you to manage your expectations around that finishing time. 

“Knowing that you are more suited to shorter events can either make you change to those shorter events, or you could choose to continue with the longer events, because you enjoy them, but with realistic expectations of your performance,” Meyersfeld explains.

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