How Exercise-Friendly Is Your Body? A Genetic Test Claims to Tell You
By Alexandra Sifferlin
Is that daily jog really doing your body any good? A new test purports to tell you whether you’re genetically wired to benefit from exercise — or not so much.
As the New York Times reports, the genetic test is developed by British company XRGenomics, and is based on the findings of a 2010 study that identified about 30 gene variations that predicted how fit an individual may become through aerobic endurance activity.
The study’s authors, including researchers from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, discovered the gene variations by genotyping muscle tissue of study participants who completed 6 to 20 weeks of endurance training. People’s aerobic fitness levels were gauges by looking at increases in their VO12 max — the body’s ability to circulate oxygen to muscles during exercise.
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Not surprisingly, the results led to an onslaught of requests for a genetic test, so the study’s lead researcher, James Timmons, a professor of systems biology at Loughborough University in England, and his colleagues filed a patent for the gene variants and developed the test. It’s not the first such test on the market: there are others (none of which are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration) that say they can predict whether young, aspiring athletes are better suited to sprinting or long-distance running, for example. But these test focus only on single genes, while XRGenomics’ product, with its analysis of 30 gene variants, is more reliable and scientifically validated, say its developers.
Curious gym-goers can send the company a cheek swab, and within six weeks they will receive results identifying them as low- or high-responders based on their DNA profile. It’ll cost you, though: the basic test and report run about $318; the price goes up to $478 for a more detailed analysis and personalized exercise recommendations from the company’s experts.
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But whatever your genetic profile, the test can’t predict all the ways in which you may benefit from exercise. The test won’t tell you, for example, whether or not you will lose weight through physical activity, or how it will influence other health factors like blood pressure and insulin levels, though there are plans to include such measures in the future.
The makers of the test still say it allows people to tailor their exercise and diet habits to meet realistic health goals. “The test can be used to guide and inform adult fitness and be used to explain why an aerobic training regime might not be as effective as your personal trainer or exercise specialist told you it would be,” they write on their website.