Tuning our Genes

Identical twin study sheds light on how exercise tunes our genes:

One fascinating study back in 2014 homed in on the way exercise affects gene expression by tasking a small cohort of volunteers to perform a one-legged cycling task for three months. At the end of the study period the researchers saw changes in about 4,000 genes when studying skeletal muscle from the exercised leg compared to the untrained leg.


The researchers recruited 70 pairs of identical twins. Alongside measuring their body-mass index and surveying their exercise habits, each participant wore a fitness tracker for one week to objectively ascertain their physical activity levels.

A twin pair was determined to be “discordant” if one twin completed more than 150 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week while the other twin performed less than 150 minutes in a week. Around 40 percent of the twin pairs were found discordant on this measure.

Looking at the epigenetic variances between these physically discordant identical twin pairs, the researchers found markers on over 50 genes. The exercise-induced gene expression changes were found in genes previously associated with a lower risk of metabolic syndrome

In other words, exercising doesn’t just give you stronger muscles, it also changes a whole bunch of gene expressions. It would be interesting to find out how that impacts the next generation. Does the child of the twin who decided to exercise more start out with a different set of gene expressions than the child of the twin who chose not to exercise?


Roots reaching towards the ground, to eventually become an additional trunk.
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The big Banyan tree on Maui often wears little plastic buckets with water in them, hanging just below the reaching roots, to encourage them to extend downwards. I experienced that tree many years ago, in 1995, and learned that Japanese gardners had nurtured it for much of its 150 years. Japanese are the second largest ethnic group in Hawaii (link) and Ewa Villages, near Honolulu, has a population that is nearly 70% Asian. That Banyan in Maui is a wonder to behold. It is about 60′ tall and 200′ wide and fills most of the block that makes up Banyan Tree Park on Front Street, behind the Lahaina Harbor.
This tree is small compared to that giant, and it doesn’t get the loving care of that Banyan on Maui, but it looks well. Give it some time…