Does Your DNA Give You A Running Start?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017. Author Geraldine Campbell

The number one New Year’s resolution made year in and year out is to ‘Lose Weight’. Many will approach this goal by looking to their diet. And others will also consider taking up some form of physical activity (ideally, you should do both!). One of the most effective forms of exercise for weight loss is running.

We all know what running is and most of us know it will make us healthier. But there are also many more benefits from this inexpensive and easily accessible activity!

Some benefits of running are well-known:

  • Improved cardiovascular health reducing your risks of disorders such as high blood pressure
  • Strengthens bones and joints
  • Burns calories like there’s no tomorrow
  • Improves your metabolic health. It improves insulin sensitivity –FitnessGenes gives you a score based on your genetic and lifestyle information.
  • Weight loss

A less well-known benefit is the effect running has on your brain. A recent study found a dose-response relationship between endurance running participation and the connectivity strength within the frontal cortex of the brain. This area of the brain is responsible for decision making, planning and the ability to switch attention between tasks. The endurance athletes investigated in this study could complete these types of tasks more effectively compared to sedentary control group. This is good news for men who usually get told they can’t multi-task – take up running and soon you’ll be able to master the elusive skill!

These cognitive benefits are not just limited to running. Even moderate intensity walking has been shown to induce improvements in cognitive functioning. If you’re new to exercise, walking is a great way to start your health and fitness journey. Why wouldn’t you take up it?

Running and Genetics

One of the mechanisms behind some of these positive impacts of running is the upregulation of PGC1-α, which leads to increased mitochondrial number and function. Mitochondria are the power-plant for supplying your muscles with the energy they need when running; using carbs and fats as fuel. The more mitochondria you have and create, the higher your energy (caloric) expenditure, and the more weight you will lose.

At FitnessGenes, we test for a variant of the PGC1-α gene. This gene determines the amount of PGC1-α protein and irisin you produce (a hormone that converts fat cells into those that burn energy as heat); the proportion of slow twitch/fast twitch muscle fibres you have; your aerobic capacity; and your susceptibility to oxidative stress (read more on this in this blog). The variation we test for also impacts your baseline aerobic capacity, which may influence whether you can start running straight away or should perhaps build up to it with walking initially.

Weight loss can be difficult, but here at FitnessGenes we provide the personalized advice you need to achieve your goal. If you are serious about this year’s resolution, get running and unlock your genetics with a FitnessGenes DNA analysis kit!

Receive 41 genetic reports, personalized recommendations, and a genetically tailored workout and nutrition plan by purchasing a goal specific Genetic Workout System from our online shop.


Erickson, K.I., Voss, M.W., Prakash, R.S., Basak, C., Szabo, A., Chaddock, L., Kim, J.S., Heo, S., Alves, H., White, S.M. and Wojcicki, T.R., 2011. Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(7), pp.3017-3022.

Hassan, M., Aguib, Y. and Yacoub, M., 2016. Molecular mechanisms of cardiovascular benefits of exercise: Running for cover from heart disease. Global Cardiology Science and Practice, 2016(1).

Ingalhalikar, M., Smith, A., Parker, D., Satterthwaite, T.D., Elliott, M.A., Ruparel, K., Hakonarson, H., Gur, R.E., Gur, R.C. and Verma, R., 2014. Sex differences in the structural connectome of the human brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(2), pp.823-828.

Kramer, A.F., Erickson, K.I. and Colcombe, S.J., 2006. Exercise, cognition, and the aging brain. Journal of applied physiology, 101(4), pp.1237-1242.

Lee, D.C., Pate, R.R., Lavie, C.J., Sui, X., Church, T.S. and Blair, S.N., 2014. Leisure-time running reduces all-cause and cardiovascular mortality risk. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 64(5), pp.472-481.

Raichlen, D.A., Bharadwaj, P.K., Fitzhugh, M.C., Haws, K.A., Torre, G.A., Trouard, T.P. and Alexander, G.E., 2016. Differences in Resting State Functional Connectivity between Young Adult Endurance Athletes and Healthy Controls. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 10, p.610.

Williams, P.T. and Thompson, P.D., 2013. Walking versus running for hypertension, cholesterol, and diabetes mellitus risk reduction. Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology, 33(5), pp.1085-1091.

Williams, P.T., 2013. Greater weight loss from running than walking during 6.2-yr prospective follow-up. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 45(4), p.706.

Williams, P.T., 2013. Effects of running and walking on osteoarthritis and hip replacement risk. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 45(7), p.1292.

3 Easy Ways You Can Get Started

Sign up for a free account to take a look at truefeed® but note it is not personalized to you - we need your DNA for that!
Sign up
Upload your existing DNA results to see your personalized truefeed®
Buy now
Take a FitnessGenes DNA Analysis to see your personalized truefeed®
Buy now

Need help choosing a plan?

Discover which plan best fits your needs by answering a couple of questions.