January 7, 2018

My Relationship with Exercise + Orig3n Fitness DNA Testing

My Relationship with Exercise + Orig3n Fitness DNA Testing

My relationship with exercise is commonplace. Boring, almost because it feels so cliche.  The first time I went to a gym I was in high school, and I was already dancing 3-5 days a week. I started a routine of running on the treadmill before going to dance, so I was averaging two workouts a day. When I got to college, working out was a means of “undoing” the weekend damage – drinking, pizza, more drinking, and hungover bagel sandwiches. After college, post-break up depression led to twice a day workouts as a means to “fix” my body instead of getting to the root of the sadness. Such is the age old tale of using exercise as punishment, and the negative connotation persisted for longer than I care to admit. And then came the realization that there’s a very distinct difference between working off and working out. One little prepositional switch makes all the difference.

(you can use the code lemons15 for 15% off Orig3n DNA testing)

I was still exercising to change the way my body looked up until I started viewing my worth beyond how I looked. Which quite honestly came when I started doing things that I saw as a representation of myself, rather than only seeing myself as a physical being. Finding a nutrition master’s program, pursuing my passions, applying to PA school, starting my blog and Instagram account, all led to the slow melting away of seeing my body as the most important part about myself.

This came to a peak when I began my PA program in August, mostly because I realized I had taken exercise for granted. Because I was so stressed with studies, I had stopped working out entirely. I was justifying that I needed the extra time to study, rather than viewing it as an outlet that would make my studying more efficient. Quite predictably, this didn’t fair well for me. I didn’t end up performing as well on exams as I had hoped. In fact, I failed a few – a crushing blow to the ego, as exams are the predominant means of measuring success in the first year of this program. When I started exercising again, my grades started improving almost immediately. In this, I was exercising for a reason entirely separate from how my body looked, but instead to work off the stresses and anxieties that accompany a demanding grad school program.

Now I work out to be more outgoing. To be less anxious. To have the confidence to ask questions in class. To feel less jittery as I’m sitting in lecture all day. To see myself running and to visualize running through my anxiety. To increase my blood and oxygen reserves so that my brain is soaked in a jacuzzi of oxygen, increasing my cognition. To increase microbial diversity and to improve intestinal permeabiilty (gut health!!!!!) ( 1 ) ( 3 ). To improve immune response and prevent myself from getting sick ( 2 ). To feel powerful. To feel strong. To quiet the noise. I no longer have a desire to be small. I want to be bold and magnanimous. And I want my exercise routine to reflect this.

All of this made a lot more sense when my psychiatry professor said that exercise has been proven to be just as effective as an anti-depressant as medications. And granted for those with severe depression sometimes just getting out of bed is too much of a burden. But if you can make it to a work out, you have the ability to entirely shift your mindset from one of unsettled to that of motivated. One study, in fact, found that regular exercise is cross-sectionally associated with lower neuroticism, anxiety and depression and higher extraversion and sensation seeking in the population ( 4 ).

Overwhelmingly, I now view exercise as an opportunity to enhance, sharpen, and challenge my thinking, rather as an opportunity to change how my body looks.

Every time I’m able to squeeze in a workout, which isn’t nearly as often as before I started school, I have to remind myself that this is a gift. How lucky am I that my body can work to the point of challenging it. That I can run myself exhaustion and feel my lungs fatigued for air. Or that I can twist myself into pigeon pose and feel the release of tight muscles. It reminds me to be more present – to force myself out of my own swirling thoughts to feel what my body is physically capable of. Which truly is an amazing thing. So as I enter in the new year, my goal isn’t to look a certain way, but to feel a certain way. And I want to tailor my workouts to be personalized to what my body really needs.

To determine what I need for my individual person, I recently took the Orig3n fitness DNA test. This is a 27-gene profile that helps you understand how your DNA affects your fitness potential, so you can get the info you need to fine-tune your routine and reach your goals faster.

(you can use the code lemons15 for 15% off Orig3n DNA testing)

It breaks genes into six categories: exercise recovery, metabolism, muscle strength, joint health, movement, and power performance. I’m sharing a few of my results below, honing in on the “abnormalities” of my results, as these will help shape how I reframe my workouts in the new year.

My results for movement and power performance were both normal. In terms of movement, you receive input on cardiac output, oxygen capacity, muscle function, V02 max, energy output, muscle efficiency, aerobic fitness. With power performance, certain genes are explained that represent muscle force, muscle power, training response, strength building, and blood flow regulation.

The metabolism category covers fatty acid sensitivity, age related metabolism, lipid metabolism, fat processing ability, feeling full, and monounsaturated fat.  I learned that I was slightly abnormal in the monounsaturated fat category. This means I have to be mindful l of the amount and type of fat I consume in my diet, to help prevent weight gain. I’ll be focusing on healthy fats in moderate amounts from nuts, seeds, oils, avocado and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

The joint health genes highlight joint strength and flexibility as well as joint health and injury. This gene affects tendons, ligaments, and cartilage that are an important part of our joints. I unfortunately carry a gene that lends to less range of joint motion and less flexible tendons than, making me more prone to injury. So it’s important for me to find a program that balances low and high impact activities to strengthen muscles will help protect from injury. This result gave me advice on low impact activities to consider, such as swimming, as an alternative to running sports. This result blew my mind because things started making a bit more sense. I had a back injury in college and I feel like I never fully recovered from it. And the back pain persists and is exacerbated from certain exercises. My chiropractor and spine doctor have both recommended swimming to me before, so it was wild to see how their recommendations perfectly paralleled what my genes were saying.

Beyond, exercise and diet, they also gave a few lifestyle recommendations. Maintaining proper posture during workouts and at rest can play a large role in joint health. Also if you are considering running make sure to choose shoes that correspond to the arches of your feet as well as the strike pattern of your foot such as overpronation, underpronation or neutral. Finally with footwear make sure that you check the compression factor of your shoes because worn shoes can cause stress on your weight bearing joints.

The exercise recovery category covers inflammation, exercise recovery, cellular health and cell repair. Here, I learned I have less protection against the exercise-induced inflammatory response and therefore may be more injury-prone. People with this result should be careful to not overwork muscles during exercising. Diversification of workout programs and using all types of movement patterns is also very important to reduce possibility of injury. I should focus on stability training, shoulder balancing, hip balancing, as well as work to ensure stability of knees and joints.

Lastly, there’s a muscle strength category including lean body mass and muscle mass.  I learned I have a gene that plays a role in controlling blood pressure and blood flow and therefore can affect muscle efficiency. People like you will have more difficulty excelling at endurance sports due to a genetic disadvantage in terms endurance and muscle efficiency due to lower blood flow. This is because you are more likely to reach peak heart rate faster than normal. People like you should break up your reps and don’t do long steady state cardio and instead replace with shorter high intensity intervals.

I learned so much about my body from this one simple saliva test. Not only were the genes described, but diet and lifestyle tips were provided in addition to exercise tips. I’m excited to craft an exercise regimen that is truly crafted for my body and my needs.

(you can use the code lemons15 for 15% off Orig3n DNA testing)

And speaking of exercise, here’s a new workout playlist to get you moving and grooving!! 

This post is sponsored by Orig3n DNA testing.

References

( 1 ) Holland, A.M., Hyatt, H.W., Smuder, A.J., Sollanek, J.J., Morton, A.B., Roberts, M.D., & Kavazis, A.N. (2015). Influence of endurance exercise training on antioxidant enzymes, tight jucntion proteins, and inflammatory markers in the rat ileum. BMC Research Notes, 8(514). doi: 10.1186/s13104-015-1500-6

( 2 ) Luo, B., Xiang, D., Nieman, D.C., & Chen, P. (2014). The effects of moderate exercise on chronic stress-induced intestinal barrier dysfunction and antimicrobial defense. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 39, 99-106. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2013.11.013

( 3 ) Campbell, S.C. & Wisniewski, P.J. (2017). Exercise is a novel promoter of intestinal health and microbial diversity. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 45(1), 41-47. doi: 10.1249/JES.0000000000000096

( 4 ) De Moor, M.H.M., Beem, A.L., Stubbe, J.H., Boomsma, D.I., & De Geus, E.J.C. (2006). Regular exercise, anxiety, depression and personality: A polulation-based study. Preventive Medicine, 42, 273-279. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2005.12.002

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