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Change Your Genes in Just 20 Minutes

By , SparkPeople Blogger
We all have those days when exercise is the last thing we feel like doing.  For me, it’s usually after a night of kid-interrupted sleep, when the alarm goes off and I just want to hit the snooze button instead of get out of bed.  Then I think about how I’ll feel when I’m done, and that’s what motivates me to get up and get moving.  Like I’ve said before, it’s a decision I never regret.
There are immediate benefits to a good workout that you probably notice:  more energy, less stress, a sense of accomplishment, etc.  There are also good things happening in your body that you wouldn’t notice right away, but are just as important.  A short 20-minute workout can have a positive impact on your genes, according to new research.
The study examined genes in the muscles of men and women before and after they spent 20 minutes exercising.  Researchers found that the chemical changes after exercise increased the expression of these genes, which in effect turned them on.   They were also able to replicate these results in a laboratory setting (using muscle cells).  According to the study, “these changes appear to happen soon after exercise, which ultimately reprograms our cells for stronger muscles and greater endurance.”
Ever wonder if your daily cup of coffee is helping or hindering your fitness program?  “When the researchers exposed muscle cells from rats to caffeine, they saw changes in genes that were similar to those seen during exercise. In some ways, caffeine mimics the effect of exercise by causing an increasing in calcium levels inside cells, the researchers said.”  However, this doesn’t mean you can stop exercising or should start ordering the extra-large coffee instead of your usual small.  Check out SparkPeople’s Healthy Beverage Guidelines for more information. 
This study is one more example of how short workouts can provide lots of health benefits.  Don’t feel like you have to spend hours at the gym in order to see results.  I don’t have the time or the energy to do long workouts like I used to.  But I find that if I can start most days with 20-30 minutes of activity, I’m getting the day started on the right foot.
Looking for ways to squeeze exercise into your busy day?  Find out how to Sneak It In and Tone It Up.
What do you think?

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Good article for those who just might need that push to get them started. You can do good things for your body in only 20 minutes. Interesting tidbit about the effects of coffee. Report
Good to know that only twenty minutes of exercise can do all that for you. I do ride my sta. bike, and after a knee replacement, I'm up to twenty-three minutes. I also do the pool for 45 minutes twice a week, and do some walking. Good blog... Report
This article is very interested, I did not know that coffee was so effected. Report
Interesting information here, but I was disappointed by the description of the findings. Not to sound like a typical "grouchy scientist," but as another commenter noted, you can't change your genes by excercising, although this study does provide evidence that excercise can influence their expression. The Spark article also doesn't mention *which* genes are upregulated in muscle tissue following excercise - the idea that some genes are expressed at higher levels isn't that helpful without knowing what they do! (In thsi case, it's the genes that regulate adaptation to excercise, i.e. muscle building, so... yay!). Unfortunately, the hyperlink to the source material links to an even more misleading msnbc.com piece, rather than to the actual study. To me, this does a disservice to the Science and to curious members of the Spark community who might want to learn more.

In fairness, there are probably very few Sparkies who have the time or the inclination to read the dense source material in its entirety, but there is much, much better plain language coverage of this interesting work that SP could link to, including this piece from Science Daily: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/
. Report
Hmm this is something to definately think about! This might just help my work outs in the future! Report
This is fabulous news! Thanks so much Jen for posting it! And the news about coffee has been posted in magazines like runners world and others. One of the things that my partner and I do is add about 1/2 cup of coffee to our after work-out smoothie. Tastes good and thanks to your post, we now know that we get double the benefits! Report
Thanks for sharing! Enjoyed this article! Report
I definitely agree with this blog. 20 minutes or even 10 minutes worked in whenever I can sounds alot less daunting than 1 hour. I've found that when I'm trying to get up the energy to actually excersize and I've talked myself into doing it, I have so much more energy and feel 100% better afterwards. Plus, the added benefit that it gives me to know that I've accomplished something for myself that day. Report
I think that was a very valid point you made~Doing one 20 min workout" ....... then something later when able .............. Good job: thanks for sharing. Jan Report
Thanks to @theeasykill30 for clarifying genes vs gene expression. I heard that explained on the Science Friday radio segment I was listening to - it's a subtle difference to us 'lay people' but a very important distinction in reality.

The blog post points about caffeine are also potentially misleading - the amount of caffeine we'd need to achieve the results are HUGE, like gallons and gallons of coffee a day. Those studies don't provide evidence that regular amounts of caffeine affect gene expression in positive ways. Report
I definitely believe this! I have such a slow metabolism, but since I've been exercising more, it seems to be a little faster! :D Report
great article for me this morning. I woke up 20 minutes earlier so I could walk in the living room. But when I got to work I was able to walk in my office for another 17 minutes (before everyone came in) and right now I can feel my body tiggling from the exercise. Great way to start the day. Report
Interesting. My first 10 to 15 minutes of exercise is done in bed (instead of on a mat on the floor).
My garage is in the basement so sometime so I make an extra trip up and down especial if my knees hurt. It actually helps.
Any time I have a chance. Report
I have days when my joints do not want to move but I know I need to, so I break up my exercise into 20 min segments, it does help Report
I appreciate this article - both the 20 minute exercise and the coffee :) It encourages me to work harder to get at least 20 minutes in on the days I'm not scheduled for my strength training.
Personally, my favorite benefit is the color that exercise brings to my face. I don't need blush or bronzer for the rest of the day, and I look healthier. Report
Thanks for the message that you can do 20 mins workouts and get benefits, no need to be at the gym for hours at a time. Report
It may be hard to get started, but when I do get going into the exercise, it feels great afterwards. Just have to not talk myself out of it in the beginning. So I have to agree with the positive affects. Report
I think I'll take a healthy dose of both - every day. Can't get going without my caffein and don't want to go a day without my afternoon run!
THis is intresting since I remember always hearing. No pain no gain, no sweat no loss. This is great information, specially for someone starting to work towards healthy lifestyle. Report
The hardest part of exercise is getting started. Report
The hardest part of exercise is getting started. Report
Amazing! By changing habits, there is so much we can do on our own to get healthier ... beats medication any time in my book. Off for some strength training (and a cup of coffee) Report
Good to know about it reducing stress levels. I work out after work and that has been one of the benefits that I've enjoyed for years. I hated working out in the mornings with my command because it left me drained for the day. However after work I was good to go. Report
Interesting article. I didn't know about the positive effect of caffeine. Report
I'm a biologist so I'm nitpicking but the title is misleading. Technically, we cannot change our genes (only gene therapy can do that and that has only worked in a few instances). What we change is how our genes are expressed. Of the fact that exercise can modulate gene expression, I have no doubt. But I'm just clarifying so that people don't get the wrong impression. Report
I have genes from hell however for the last eight months I have been trying to change that. I know for a fact that a day that I don't exercise is a very long day and I dont feel near as well. so I would personally agree with their findings. Report
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