The Best Type of Exercise? A Blood Test Holds Clues.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY VICTOR FREITAS FROM PEXELS
Photo by Victor Freitas from Pexels
By Gretchen Reynolds
The New York Times

If we all begin the same exercise routine tomorrow, some of us will become much fitter, others will get a little more in shape and a few of us may actually lose fitness. Individual responses to exercise can vary wildly and, until now, unpredictably. But a new study of more than 650 men and women suggests that the levels of certain proteins in our bloodstreams might foretell whether and how we will respond to various exercise regimens.

The study needs replication and expansion, but it represents a meaningful start toward a blood test to indicate the best types of exercise for each of us and whether we can expect to gain more or less benefit from the same workout as our spouse, offspring, or other training partners or rivals.


Exercise response is a topic that probably should be discussed more often. We know exercise is wonderful for our health. Countless studies show that people who exercise tend to live longer, more happily and with less risk of many diseases than sedentary people.

But those findings refer to broad averages. Parse the study data closely and you can find a dizzying gamut of reactions, from outsized health and fitness gains in some people to none in others.

Disobligingly, little about our bodies and lives currently predicts how we will respond to exercise, including our genetics. Identical twins, with identical DNA, can react quite differently to workouts, studies show, as can people who are equally lean, obese or aerobically fit at the start of a new exercise program. Some, for mysterious reasons, wind up fitter and healthier afterward than others.

These enigmas intrigued researchers from Harvard University, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and other institutions. The scientists had long been interested in how exercise alters the molecular environment inside the body.


Taken as a whole, the new study’s results suggest that “molecular profiling tools might help to tailor” exercise plans, said Dr. Robert Gerszten, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of cardiovascular medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, who conducted the new study with its lead author, Dr. Jeremy Robbins, and others.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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