Blame it on your genes - a genetic mutation ‘reduces the ability to exercise’

Caroline Allen
Contributor
It's easier for some people to exercise than others. (Getty Images)

It’s long been thought that some people find exercising easier than others.

While some will happily jog off to the gym, others are left daunted by the prospect of doing anything that might cause perspiration or shortness of breath.

This might not just be a theory after all.

Scientists have found a link between certain genes and a person’s ability to exercise efficiently.

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The research, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, discovered a genetic mutation in some people which made it harder for them to workout.

The “genetic mutation” can affect cellular oxygen sensing which is linked to a person’s ability to exercise effectively.

The team involved in the research - which included researchers from King's College London - found that people with the gene had reduced rate of growth, persistent low blood sugar, a limited exercise capacity and a very high number of red blood cell.

In order to try to figure out why people with a limited exercise capacity behaved the way they did, the researchers tested one case study.

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After numerous tests - which included a genetic analysis and high-altitude testing - the scientists discovered that the mutated gene in question was the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) gene.

The VHL gene plays an important role in our genetic make up, primarily because it helps our cells survive when our ability to take in oxygen is reduced.

The scientists found that the VHL gene was impaired in some people who struggle to exercise.

That’s because this gene is linked to the mitochondria and when the mitochondria isn’t firing on all cylinders - which is the case in people with a mutated VHL - then it makes it harder to exercise.

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Dr Federico Formenti, School of Basic & Medical Biosciences, one of the leading authors of the study, said: “The discovery of this mutation and the associated phenotype is exciting because it enables a deeper understanding of human physiology, especially in terms of how the human body senses and responds to reduced oxygen availability.”

It also goes a long way to explain why some people can train and run a marathon whilst others would struggle with training, even if they were mentally motivated enough to complete it.

More research will need to be done in order to determine just how much this gene can affect people, but it’s a great step in the right direction for the study of human physiology.

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