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Exercise and the Happy Genome

This new and evolving field of epigenetics shows that physical activity can cause changes in the way our genes are being expressed and translated to proteins, without changing the DNA itself. So let’s exercise and make our genome happy (Epi)!!!

The Happy Genome »

“She looks just like her mom.”

From hair and eye color to height and physique to high blood pressure and even how we respond to exercise, heredity and genetics lay out the blueprint to who we are and what makes us tick.

Within each cell of the human body, genes located within our DNA are the functional unit of heredity. These genes are transferred from parents to a child.

Early on, studies of twins and families first revealed the influence genetics on human traits including physical fitness and exercise. In the late 20th century, increasing advancements in technology and molecular biology led to one of the greatest scientific feats in history – the completion of the sequencing and mapping of the human genome in April 2003 – otherwise known as the Human Genome Project. For the first time in human history, we can read nature's complete genetic blueprint for building a human being.

This is the first blog in our category called ‘Exercise and the Happy Genome’. Does that mean we have found the gene that tells us why exercise makes us happy? No, not exactly. But it’s not out of the question!

At PERC, genes are a major interest and part of our name – Pediatric Exercise and Genomics Research Center. We all agree that exercise is good for kids. Thousands of studies show that physical activity provides many physical and mental benefits but yet we know surprisingly little about the why’s or how’s of exercise. Here at PERC, our scientists believe the answers exist at the most fundamental level of human biology — the gene — and how it is expressed. That is, what are the underlying molecular mechanisms underlying the benefits of exercise. 

We are now part of a large multi-center study called MoTrPAC funded by the governments National Institutes of Health Common Fund to discover and interpret the changes at the molecular level that occur in people in response to exercise. MoTrPAC stands for Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity. The goal of the study is to discover and characterize the range of molecular transducers (the "molecular map") that underlie the effects of physical activity in humans. The outcome is to advance the understanding of how physical activity improves and preserves health.

The goal is for the results to be used to prescribe exercise to optimize child growth and help prevent adult diseases. And more specifically to determine the individual exercise prescription (what kind, how much and how often) a healthy child or one with asthma, a disability, injury or a serious illness?

For more information on MoTrPAC, watch the video and check out the MoTrPAC website. You can also keep following us here for updates and to learn more about Exercise and the Happy Genome.