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We have all heard people saying: “it’s in my genes”; but what does this actually mean? Our genetic makeup is a large contributor to how our body reacts to certain activities, foods, movements and diseases. If we are predisposed to certain diseases, does that mean we are going to get that disease, or are there ways to prevent this from happening?

The term “genetically predisposed” to a condition means that our body has a higher likelihood of developing the disease due to our genetic makeup. It does not mean you are definitely going to get the disease, but other people in your family might. Being genetically predisposed to a disease means that your risk is higher, but it also relies on other factors. These factors can include things such as your lifestyle, activity level, environmental factors, social factors and eating habits. The DNA that we inherited from our family does not mean that it is our fate, we can modify our behaviour of our genes and DNA by changing our lifestyle and environmental factors to reduce the risk of the disease.

Individuals can be predisposed to diseases such as diabetes, cancers, heart disease, elevated blood pressure, Alzheimer s and cholesterol to name a few. So how, in today’s busy lifestyle, can we limit these risk factors to keep ourselves as healthy as possible?  Well, we all know that eating correctly and staying active is the best way to keep your body and mind as strong and as healthy as possible. Exercise has a long list of benefits and decreased risk of genetic disease is just one of them. A healthy lifestyle can help to overcome one’s inherited disease risk profile. Therefore our daily habits can affect our health regardless of what our familial history is. This being said, our genetic makeup does still determine how much one gets out of an exercise session compared to other individuals. If you are predisposed to obesity, it is more important for you to take part in exercise. Exercise helps turn on genes involved in burning fat and carbs, which can be beneficial in helping one lose weight. This change can also be linked to many other health benefits such as decrease blood pressure and  increasing insulin sensitivity, which in turn helps your body respond better to energy production and increase your metabolisim. In this way exercise is necessary for individuals with predisposed to obesity and can help control or maintain the condition through a healthy lifestyle.

So what exercise is best suited for specific predisposed genetic diseases and disorders? Diabetes has been linked to benefitting from cardiovascular training to help regulate blood sugar. Exercises such as walking, running, swimming and cycling can all help to keep your blood pumping and increase your overall metabolism. They can help with weight loss and insulin sensitivity. Weight training has also been linked to increasing muscle mass, and therefore controlling blood sugar levels further and ultimately controlling type 2 diabetes.

If you are predisposed to heart disease, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, doing any form of exercise and maintaining a routine will help to decrease your blood pressure. If you are making exercise a part of your daily habit this will also help with stress release, which in turn further decreased your blood pressure. Exercise for this can include anything from walking at a brisk pace, yoga, Pilates, running or any form of exercise that you find fun, such as dancing or a team sport. Most exercises will elevate your blood pressure for a short time while training, but it will decrease once you have stopped training. The fitter you are, the faster your BP will drop. If you have any form of cardiovascular disease or heart disease, aerobic exercise is a great way to increase the overall strength of your heart and lungs. This helps to pump blood and oxygen to all major organs in the body, and over time, it helps to make your heart and lungs more efficient. In terms of Cholesterol levels, any decrease in weight helps to remove the build-up of cholesterol. Exercise helps to stimulate enzymes that help to remove LDL (low-density lipoproteins) from the blood to the liver. This is where the cholesterol is then converted into bile and removed from the body. The more you exercise, the better your body becomes at removing cholesterol from the body, and ultimately helping to reduce overall heart disease.

When you are predisposed to any form of a hereditary disease, any form of exercise will benefit your body. It is recommended that one exercises at least 30 minutes per day to gain the most benefit from training. The exercise should be vigorous enough that your heart rate is elevated above your resting heart rate for either short bursts at a higher intensity, or for a longer period of time at a slightly lower intensity. If we can determine what genes predispose certain individuals to certain diseases, it will be easier to develop programs that are more personalised to that individual for them to gain maximum benefit. For now, it can be seen that people who exercise and ate a healthy diet can decrease genetic risk factors, regardless of what your genetic makeup is. You will feel so much better for putting on those running shoes, taking in some fresh air and clearing your mind. Exercise is a far better risk prevention tool that most of the medications out there, you will be happy you started training in the long run.