The healthiest people I know all exercise regularly. And most of them exercise with a lot of intensity. The most unhealthy people I know don’t move much at all much less exercise. If you want revolutionary health then you absolutely must exercise.
Many patients at our Tulsa Functional Medicine clinic are interested in exercise but they don’t know exactly what to do. There are lots of exercise programs – P90X, Insanity, traditional weight lifting, aerobics (running, bicycle, elliptical, etc). What should you do?
Exercise is vital for overall health and it has very little to do with burning calories. However, the KIND of exercise can make all the difference in the world!
I’m sure you’ve seen someone who ran 20 miles a week and still didn’t lose weight, it might even have been you. Burning calories is not what causes weight loss. Ironically, it also doesn’t have as much to do with how much you eat either but that is another topic.
If it isn’t how many calories you eat and how many calories you burn through exercise then what is it?
First, the DNA…
Within the nucleus of every cell in your body (except red blood cells) lies the master control center: DNA
Your DNA controls cellular function. It encodes for the proteins and functions needed for the cell to do what the cell is supposed to do. You can think of your DNA as a reference or “how-to” manual for the cell. The problem is that your cells do not live in isolation. They live within a changing, and often, toxic environment. They are constantly under attack by bacteria, viruses, oxidative stress, toxins, and numerous other factors that can harm or even kill them.
Cells get damaged. Frequently. And when they do they need to fix themselves. DNA is not only the “how-to” manual for the cell but it is also the “repair manual.”
Our bodies, our cells, are under constant attack. We live in a toxic environment. We eat crappy foods. We are overly stressed. We are frequently exposed to numerous toxins such as heavy metals, environmental pollutants, pesticides, and countless chemicals. The more toxic our exposures the more damage we incur. We need mechanisms to repair our cells.
The human body contains 20,000-25,000 genes.1 Genes encode for proteins which control cell function and repair. However, most of your DNA does not encode for proteins. Instead, these regions regulate gene expression – when genes are turned on or turned off.
You have all of these genes but most of them are dormant at any given time. Genes are only accessed when needed by the cell. You may have a repair manual for your car but you may not ever need the page (instructions) for ‘how to change a lightbulb.’ You have to have a need for that page, open the book, and follow the instructions. Cellular damage of different types stimulates certain genes to facilitate their repair.
This is how DNA works. When the conditions are right the cell turns to the specific gene for the instructions for that need. Turning on some genes is a bad thing. For example, if you have the genetic SNP for 9p21 and those genes are turned on, then you have a 100% increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The cool thing is that you can change cellular conditions and make it where that gene isn’t ever turned on.
Many influences turn genes off and on
These genes are not turned on and off randomly. They are turned on and off when certain conditions are met. Hormones and other cell messengers are the signals that turn these genes on and off. There are many of these cell messengers and there are many reasons they will trigger the response.
Some of these signals come from within the cell but others come from elsewhere. Cell signals, via hormones, are created in other parts of the body and bind to receptors on the surface of cells. Once they bind, they cause a change within the cell.
Hormones and other signals are generated based on the internal and external environment of the body. This means that your nutrition, stress levels, sleep, light and sun exposure, noise, temperature, and even your movement all influence the release of hormones and, ultimately, cellular function. All of this will influence whether certain genes are turned on or will remain silent.
Exercise changes the cellular conditions altering gene expression and changes cell function.