The beneficial effects of sport are due, in part, to changes that occur in the structure of DNA.
It is obvious that physical exercise brings many benefits to our health. Moreover, science has corroborated this, since the practice of physical activity reduces the risk of practically all chronic diseases, as well as being beneficial for our well-being and mental health.
Despite this, the mechanisms that come into play to make physical exercise so beneficial are not fully understood.
Recently scientists at the University of Copenhagen have discovered that the beneficial effects of physical exercise may be partly due to changes that occur in the structure of our DNA. These changes are called “epigenetic”.
The research, carried out by experts from the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research, has been published in the journal Molecular Metabolism.
How the brain benefits from physical exercise
Psychological benefits of exercise : Exercise can help prevent and treat mental illness. Some studies suggest that regular physical activity is as effective in treating depression as talk therapies or medication, but with fewer side effects than medication. Exercise may also be beneficial if you have anxiety-related disorders, such as phobias, panic attacks or stress.
You are likely to feel happier, more satisfied with life and improve your sense of well-being if you are physically active. Incorporate regular exercise into your routine and you are likely to sleep better, reduce your stress levels and improve your self-image. It is possible that exercise can improve brain function in children and older adults.
With the results of the study, scientists speculate that the beneficial effects of exercise on organs distant from muscles, such as the brain, may be largely mediated by the regulation of muscle factor secretion.
Specifically, the research concluded that exercise remodels potentiating activity in skeletal muscle that is related to cognitive abilities, something that leaves the door open to the identification of exercise-induced secreted muscle factors targeting the brain.
“Our data provide evidence for a functional link between epigenetic rewiring of enhancers to control their activity after physical training and modulation of disease risk in humans,” concludes Professor Kristine Williams, lead author of this research.
Benefits of exercise for heart health
Exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Inactive people have almost twice the risk of dying from heart disease compared to people who are active. So if you don’t exercise at all, getting a little more physical activity (e.g., walking every day) can help reduce your risk of these conditions.
Starting to exercise can also help reduce high blood pressure (hypertension). High blood pressure is common. If you have high blood pressure, you are more likely to have a stroke or heart attack. Exercise can help prevent high blood pressure and lower it if your blood pressure is already too high.
Exercising can help improve your cholesterol balance. There are two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is sometimes referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol, while HDL cholesterol is referred to as ‘good’ cholesterol. High levels of LDL and low levels of HDL increase your risk of heart disease. Studies show that regular exercise, such as brisk walking or running, is associated with higher levels of HDL cholesterol.
Benefits of exercise for your bones and joints
You are more likely to suffer from low back pain if you don’t exercise at all. Eight out of 10 people get low back pain at some point in their lives, but people who exercise are less likely to get it. If you have low back pain, exercise can help relieve the pain.
Moderate activities performed regularly, such as walking, swimming and cycling, can help treat and reduce the pain caused by osteoarthritis. This is the most common form of arthritis and affects about eight out of 10 people over the age of 50. Engaging in these moderate activities can also prevent and slow the progression of osteoarthritis.
Physical activity can increase bone mineral density in children and help maintain bone strength in adolescents. It also delays bone degeneration in adulthood. This can help prevent osteoporosis – when your bones become brittle and more likely to fracture. High-impact exercise, such as running or jumping, makes bones weight-bearing and increases bone density in younger people. Choose low-impact, weight-bearing exercise, such as slow walking or swimming, if you already have osteoporosis.
The structure of DNA, fundamental for physical exercise
These experts explain that our DNA is the molecular instruction manual found in all our cells. Some sections of our DNA are genes, which are instructions for building proteins, the building blocks of the body, while other sections called enhancers regulate which genes are turned on or off, when and in which tissue.
Thus, scientists have found, for the first time, that physical exercise rewires enhancers in different regions of our DNA that are known to be associated with the risk of developing disease.
“Our findings provide a mechanism for the known beneficial effects of exercise. By connecting each enhancer to a gene, we provide a list of direct targets that could mediate this effect,” explains Professor Romain Barrès, an expert at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research and lead author of the study.
Regular exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. People who lead active lives are less likely to get sick and more likely to live longer lives. Exercising allows you to be more physically fit and also improves your mental health and overall sense of well-being.
It is important to make physical activity a part of life for children, adults and seniors. Exercise doesn’t have to be vigorous – you can find ways to stay active that fit into your daily routine, such as walking. If you’ve never exercised before or haven’t exercised in a while, it’s easy to get started. Physical activity is essential to maintaining a healthy body weight and is even beneficial during pregnancy. However, be sure to take steps to keep yourself injury-free and remember that nutrition and hydration also play an important role. Getting the right nutrients provides the fuel you need to exercise and drinking fluids helps prevent dehydration.