Moving Well


Whether you’re built for speed or endurance, DNA testing can help optimise your workout

19 Feb 2019

Are some people just born fit? You probably know someone like this, who breezes through her 10k morning run or crossfit workout. Or the guy at your gym who makes powerlifting look like a cakewalk. Is it because of their genes?

The short answer, yes, people are born with different types of sporting ability. It’s not possible to say they’re fit because of their genes alone, because there are many other factors involved. However, it is possible to know if you have certain genes that make your body respond better to different types of fitness workouts and sports. 

Researchers are continuing to identify more and more genes that have an influence over the type of physical activity your body is naturally be better at doing. Take the ACTN3 gene and the ACE gene, for example. The former makes you “built for speed,” which means you have more “fast-twitch” muscles, like a sprinter does. The latter gene makes you more of a marathoner, because you will have more “slow-twitch” muscles. Think of it as the difference between Usain Bolt and Mo Farah.

If your genotype, or genetic constitution, predisposes your body to produce more fast-twitch muscle fibers than slow-twitch ones, you’re more likely to be good at sprinting, powerlifting, and other exercises that require sudden bursts of power or “explosive movements,” such as plyometric exercises. People with more slow-twitch muscle fibers, on the other hand, are more likely to be good at long-distance running and other sports where greater endurance is needed.

Other genes can also influence your athletic ability, such as your body’s uptake of oxygen. This increases endurance and reduces fatigue by getting oxygen into your muscles more quickly. By identifying the genes you have, you are more likely to achieve your fitness goals because you know which types of exercises work best for you.

Champions are born, but must be made
Let’s take it one step further. You’ve hit your workout goals and love your newfound feeling of fitness. What about playing, say, football or tennis? Go for it! You’ll love the camaraderie and sporting spirit (even if you’re an introvert!)

If you’d like to take one level up and compete say, in a triathlon, you’ll become aware that the genes for sporting success are not just those that influence pure physical prowess, but also the ones related to focus, dedication and the ability to learn from adverse situations and losses. These genes are still being identified! A great support network, nutrition and access to good coaches and facilities all play a big part in your fitness and sporting success.

For budding champions, DNA testing can provide you greater understanding of your body so you can achieve the breakthroughs to reach your fitness goals faster.