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What Can Genes Tell Us About Fitness?

Can understanding our genes help us get fit and healthy? Get-Fit Guy interviewed Dr. Dan Reardon of FitnessGenes to find out.

By
Brock Armstrong,
Episode #441
Image of an athlete and his DNA

Several years ago, I received a tiny plastic test tube in my mailbox, so naturally, I spit in it and put it back in the mail. No, this was not an elaborate practical joke, I was actually submitting my DNA to a testing service called 23andMe.

A few weeks later, I received a report telling me all about myself, based on what they found in my genes that were contained in that saliva I put in the mail. There was information about my ancestry, my hair and eye color, some of my health predispositions and risks, and even what percentage of me is directly linked to Neanderthals (more than I would care to admit, to be honest).

As exciting and fun as that was, I didn't really find much in the way of actionable information in that report. I already knew that my family was predominantly Eastern European and that I had blue eyes and runny earwax. I was relieved to find out that I am not at increased risk of macular degeneration or Alzheimer's, but in the end, once I had read the reports (and shared them with my sister, since they are likely relevant to her as well) I pretty much went on with my life as usual. 

As a fitness and movement professional, I was aware of the growing market in DNA testing as it pertains to fitness. I often considered signing up for services such as DNAFit and FoundMyFitness. Would DNA testing lend any additional or helpful information? I was skeptical until I heard Dr. Dan Reardon MB ChB, BSc, co-founder and CEO of FitnessGenes, speak at a wellness conference in Los Angeles this spring. After hearing his presentation, I took a closer look into his company and what it had to offer me as someone who is focused on being (and staying) fit and healthy.

FitnessGenes

This is how it works:

  1. You sign up at fitnessgenes.com (Although I have no monetary agreement or affiliate deal with this company, you can use code GETFITGUY25 to get 25% off) and choose one of their Tailored Workout Systems based on your specific goal and experience level. 
  2. In a few days, you'll receive your DNA collection kit. Follow the instructions for correctly spitting into the tube and then pop it back in the mail. 
  3. The FitnessGenes scientists extract your DNA from cheek cells that are naturally present in your saliva. 
  4. After your DNA analysis is complete, you'll receive an email notification that your results are ready. You'll also get a link to your own online portal.
  5. Login to the portal to see your DNA analysis, recommendations based on the analysis, personalized workout advice, and genetically tailored diet plans.

As you can see, my experience with this process was much more actionable than simply finding out that my grandparents weren't lying to me about being from Ukraine.

The Gene Expert

Dr. Reardon is a medical doctor and genetics expert. He's been featured in InStyle, The New York Times and Men's Fitness magazines and on Inc.com, Well+Good and The Doctors.

Dr. Reardon was an emergency-room physician for 10 years and he holds a degree in human anatomy. He's also a certified personal trainer with more than15 years of experience. He's written two books and he's the former science editor of Muscle & Fitness and Flex magazines in the U.K., Europe, and Australia.

To get the full story, be sure you listen to our entire conversation in this Get-Fit Guy podcast episode. During the interview, you'll learn:

  • Where Dr. Reardon's passion for fitness and health stems from
  • The history or FitnessGenes
  • How we are still in the early days of genetic science (less than 20 years)
  • Whether the genetic data set actually limited due to the cost and availability of these types of tests?
  • How people have historically chosen fitness and diet plans versus how we can now select them based on what we know about our genetic traits
  • Whether there's really a "sports gene" or "athlete gene" that will tell us everything (Spoiler: nope)
  • Why anyone who is selling a diet or fitness program as something that's right for everyone is wrong
  • More about the power of using your genes to established small steps toward your goal
  • How health care is really disease care, but the goal of genetic science is to change that and apply health management in a non-disease process
  • Whether we should be worried about the loss of privacy when submitting our genetic data or concerned about our clone hunting us down to harvest ur organs
  • Why genetic testing becomes more useful as more people use it

Dr. Reardon summed up the problem nicely saying, "We live in a world where everyone wants to believe that everyone is equal, and so we end up in a system that treats everyone the same. Unfortunately, treating everyone the same is only going to benefit certain people because we know that when it comes to diet, exercise, psychological stimulus, behaviour, the way you learn, and the complexities of social interactions, that if you just treat everybody the same and don't account for these different variables between people, you miss the whole notion of personalization."

You can find Dr. Dan on Instagram and Twitter and FitnessGenes at Instagram and Twitter and if you sign up at fitnessgenes.com and use code GETFITGUY25 to get 25% off everything.

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About the Author

Brock Armstrong

Brock Armstrong is a certified AFLCA Group Fitness Leader with a designation in Portable Equipment, NCCP and CAC Triathlon Coach, and a TnT certified run coach. He is also on the board of advisors for the Primal Health Coach Institute and a guest faculty member of the Human Potential Institute. Do you have a fitness question? Leave a message on the Get-Fit Guy listener line. Your question could be featured on the show. 

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