Genetics, excuses and twins

By Brian Cole, Personal Training Associates

I’m so thankful to have Personal Fitness Training as my career. I love researching and learning new ways to help others become more active and fit. There are so many pleasurable activities that can be more fully enjoyed when we’re healthy. And the path to selfimprovement is so clear. Hopefully, my columns reach and inspire some of you to just get started.

Now I’m going to share some interesting information I’ve come across in my reading. I recently read a column by a highly respected physician and editor of a well-known health publication. To summarize his message: Weight loss is not as simple as calories in/calories out because research shows us that we all digest food differently. Calories in: If our gut bacteria breaks down food more efficiently, more calories enter the blood, are retained and stored as body fat. Our type of gut bacteria is inherited. Calories out: Our hormones and types of fat strongly affect how well we burn calories. Inherited genes determine individual efficiency.

Paraphrasing his conclusions: We have a better understanding, as a result of research, of why some people have more trouble losing weight even when they exercise more and eat less. We now know it’s not just a matter of will-power.

OK, I’m saying there is nothing in that information to support his conclusions. We all break down and digest food nutrients differently. We all burn calories differently. No kidding. So what? These types of explanations give built-in excuses to those who simply aren’t doing what is clearly within their capacity to do.

The self-improvement approaches need to vary but they’re still about accepting responsibility for our individuality, figuring out what it takes for us to improve and then implementing it. And I’m saying that can’t happen without willpower and self-thoughtprovoking discipline.

Let’s add some research on twins. As the father of twins, this study caught my eye and its conclusions have a message I’ve spread for many years. Through research, we know that those who are active and exercise more frequently are generally healthier. But even in controlled studies proving cause/effect is difficult due to the genetic differences and the foundational childhood lifestyles of the participants. Enter twins. Same DNA. Same childhood values and activity levels. Same dietary habits as children, which, as a prerequisite for this study, continued into adulthood. But as adults, due to family responsibilities and career choices, one exercised and one did not.

For the sedentary non-exercising twin physically: lower endurance capacity, higher body fat percent and signs of insulin resistance, which is an indicator of future metabolic problems including diabetes. And mentally: less grey matter. Fewer brain cells. Specifically, in the areas involving motor control, balance and coordination.

The message I think is so important: This is all about increased activity. It’s not about any dietary differences. Whether their nutrition habits were good or poor was not part of the evaluation. While changing to healthier nutrition is definitely important, the measured improvements in this study are a result of just being more active.

So my conclusions are simply that genetics are not destiny and that being more active is the most important path to better health.

As an individual committed to taking charge of your life and improving your years ahead, finding the most beneficial ways of achieving your goals will require making changes to your lifestyle. Changes that may also affect those around you. That’s a good thing. Set an example. Not changing isn’t safer and it doesn’t protect the way things are; it just sacrifices the future.

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