Cardio or weights? Sprinting or marathon running? Exercise daily or three times a week? We all know that physical activity is a fundamental part of health, but what’s the best option for you?
You might have wondered why you can run for miles on a flat, but even the smallest incline has you gasping for breath. Maybe you’ve wondered why after a big race your friend can hit the gym the very next day, when you can barely get out of bed.
Decoding your strengths
The answer to these questions is in your genes. Dr Yael Joffe, the co-founder of genetic test provider 3X4 Genetics, explains that our genes give us insights and help us answer the questions around how to get the best out of our bodies.
“Our bodies are all programmed differently. Differences in our genes make us better or less suited to different physical activities,” Joffe says.
Choose the right way to move your body
Exercise is not just recommended to remedy physical conditions such as obesity or dwindling muscle mass; it also impacts significantly on our brain function, mental health and overall state of our bodies.
Time is scarce in our modern lives but the ways to get our bodies moving are abundant. We all want to get the maximum benefit out of our physical activity, but how would you know if yoga would be better for you than a run? How would you know if a half-hour gym workout would actually benefit you more than an hour-long session? How would you know if you could get more out of a short, fast cycle on the road than a meander on your mountain bike through the hills?
Genetics holds the answers to these questions, explains Joffe. Here are 3 important questions your genes can answer:
1. Are you better suited to endurance or power-based exercise.
Joffe says: “You want to find the activities that are in your natural comfort space so that you can perform well, reduce risks of injury and recover easily from your exertions. Should I spend my exercise time doing an activity that is more distance-based such as going for a long walk, cycle or swim? Or should I be doing something more power-based?”
If your muscles react well to power training, then working out in a gym, sprinting or cycling up hills is your best option. “This is important self-discovery because if you are someone who is not built for endurance then trying to run a marathon is going to be very hard on you. It’s perhaps not the best use of your exercise time and it’s also more likely that you are not going to enjoy it,” says Joffe.
2. How susceptible you are to injury?
“If you have a high susceptibility to injury, you can design your activity and your training to decrease those risks,” Joffe explains
For instance, if you know you are endurance-inclined and you want to run a marathon but you have a high risk of injury, you may want to include functional exercises and strengthening exercises that will support an optimal performance without injury.
3. What is your capacity to recover from physical exercise?
Some can train daily, while others find their bodies don’t recover fully from training and will need rest days in their routine.
“If you are not able to recover quickly from exercise and don’t build in rest days, apart from the likelihood of ending up injured, you have the potential to develop chronic fatigue, inflammation or many other issues,” Joffe explains.
Finding these answers ensures you get the most out of the time you spend exercising, while reducing your chances of injury.
“The answers to these three questions are not just relevant to elite athletes or recreational athletes,” points out Joffe,
“It is self-knowledge that benefits anyone who wants to make the most of their exercise time and derive the greatest benefit in the most enjoyable ways.”
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.