You can’t blame it on your parents. At least not simply from being born. Your environment and lifestyle choices give trigger instructions to turn on or off your gene expression.
Specifically, diet, physical activity, and the environment you live in are triggers.
Even your thoughts about health and stress can put you in the driver’s seat. If you believe that with aging comes weight gain, you’re more likely to be one of the older adults who indeed gains weight. If you believe your sedentary job will kill you or stress is awful for your health, research is showing you have a higher risk of disease and earlier death. A study that compared people who rate their stress levels highest, it was specifically those who held the belief that stress was bad that had higher mortality rates five years later.
By changing your mind, you can change a lot of factors surround health. Even weight loss success is determined by your thoughts. One study gave two groups of maids working in hotels two different belief systems. Both groups were instructed that they needed to exercise on a regular basis. One group was told that the activity they were doing all day was physical activity and counted. The other was not given this information. The group told they were exercising enough to lose weight did lose weight.
Beyond your thoughts and beliefs there is the every day influence of the foods you eat and the physical activity you get. You, after all can’t simply choose to believe that sitting in front of a TV with chips will get you fit and expect that to happen. What you believe does have to have truth behind it.
You have 500 genes whose expression can be altered by nutrition and lifestyle choices. We all have cancer cells within us. We won’t all get cancer. Your genes are waiting to respond to your life experiences.
Phytonutrient Power Over Genes
Phytonutrients are plant-based compounds that promote health with anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant compounds. The variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet becomes important here. The more limited your food intake, the deeper in color you want your selections to be since the brightest colored plant foods contain the highest nutrients. These phytonutrients are a defense against oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is the natural result of using oxygen for metabolism. We can’t ignore oxidative stress in exercise of long duration any more than we can environmental pollution, radiation, pesticides, or chemical exposure. Oxidative stress and excess free radical production can harm the body. Free-radicals are harmful for health in their ability to turn genes on and off. When they’re uncontrolled they promote inflammation, and progression of certain diseases including premature aging.
Exercise Stress and Overweight
I shared in You Still Got It, Girl! that long duration exercise (over 75 minutes) has a tendency to increase the stress hormone cortisol production. Likewise if you’re an endurance fan, it’s important to consider the pros and cons and motivation behind your participation. There’s considerable evidence that telomeres shorten and aging accelerates due to oxidative stress from long duration exercise. No one thing in isolation is responsible for your health. Look at all your health habits as well as evidence of cumulative results from them. Do you look your age? Older? Younger?
As someone who has participated in her share of long endurance events, I suggest we need to consider again our belief system. There is what I call the joy factor. I’ve experienced it after what many would call over doing it. Following some of my longest swims ever I’ve been asked if I have just had a massage or returned from vacation. The comment was that I looked so relaxed. Following a training ride in preparation for a race I’ve experienced feelings of complete and utter relaxation and peacefulness.
Joy in Motion
If you look forward to something that brings you joy and you also have evidence that it is working for you (you’re at your optimal weight, you’re sleeping well, digesting well, focus and concentration is at peak) then you have to find your own answer to what is right. If on the other hand you have evidence you are not thriving in each of those areas, it’s time to change your thoughts and actions.
Clean Up Your Movement and End Overweight
Don’t neglect Non-Exercise Activity Time (N.E.A.T.) daily. Like the housekeepers in the study mentioned above, frequent activity counts. Even intermittent activity including getting up every hour to walk, stretch, or stand instead of sitting for 5-10 minutes counts. There is research to show that it is not the hour of vigorous fitness but the amount of N.E.A.T. that people get that indicates obesity rates.
How can you get the best expression in your genes?
- Retrain-your-brain by consciously increasing awareness of thoughts
- Increase your consumption of rich-colored fruits and vegetables
- Increase the variety (spinach some days, chard or kale others)
- Add fruits and veggies to every meal and snack
- Choose seasonal produce that’s richest in nutrients
- Increase your quality of exercise over quantity of exercise
- Increase your daily amount of N.E.A.T.