Sunday, April 6, 2014

My sporty genes

TAG of the Week:

Here it is:

Please read this New York Times Article, “Is Fitness All in the Genes?”


With everything that you have learned so far, do you believe fitness is purely based on one’s genome or is it a combined interaction of genetics and environmental factors (i.e. diet, workout routines, etc…)? Also, please comment on the potential limitations of the study outlined in this article. 

Or
Choose one of the following and comment:
1. You can share the new, 'surprising' information you learned
2. Ask a question that needs additional clarification,
3. Share a news link relevant to the discussion. 
4. Reply to another student's comment.

70 comments:

  1. I do not believe that fitness is purely based on one's genome. Even in the text of the article, the wording says that part of the answer to the question about receptiveness to exercise is based on genetics. The lead author of the study also says that far more research is needed before we can explicitly say how genes influence the body's response to aerobic exercise, and/or what other genetic and other factors influence this. It is easy to sensationalize findings such as these when genetic literacy is not that high everywhere, and people do not fully understand how genes work. People may think that having this gene is definitive for a positive influence on aerobic fitness, and that individuals who do not have this gene will not be as fit and that is all. However, we know that genomics is far more complicated than this, and that there are many other factors that come in to play when determining any behavior such as choice, aptitude for exercise, eating habits, rigidity of exercise, and even the relationship with other genes. Fitness is definitely based on a combined interaction therefore, of genetics and environmental factors which can in turn affect and alter the genome.
    This study also has some limitations, which make its findings less definitive and telling about the whole population. The study only looked at 473 healthy, white individuals. Though they sampled from the multiethnic Heritage Family Study, they only chose to use white individuals in their study, which means that their findings might not be applicable to other ethnic backgrounds. They even wrote in the article that only few of these 21 genes found in white people were even found in African-American genomes. Also, the results might also not be universal because they only used healthy individuals. There could be different genetic mechanisms and environmental influences occurring in individuals who are ill. In addition, the study only measured fitness based on VO2 max, and no other factors such as body measurements or level of endurance, etc. Using a simplified definition of physical fitness might have also limited their results as there might have been different genes in play for different definitions of fitness.

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  2. I, too, agree with Stefanie when saying that fitness is not solely based on genetics. I believe like many other studies covered during this semester, environment and other external factors play an important role in whether or not a genetic variation is expressed. A potential study limitation overlooked in this article is that it is never noted whether participants were balanced at baseline in regards to prior fitness levels. For instance, if prior to enrollment one participant rarely exercised while another participant ran a few miles a week, there's going to be different results experienced by the two individuals even if they are exercising during the study at controlled and identical intensities. In addition, I also think they should have elaborated upon the criteria used to determine who classified as a "healthy' individual. Simply using the word "healthy" leaves the selection criteria up to interpretation, and I think it would be more suitable if they had clearly stated what they considered acceptable for enrollment. In conclusion, this study is interesting and I think this and other genetic studies alike continue to remind us of the ubiquitous influence of genetics.

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  3. Fitness is not based solely on genetics. I do think genes are important to consider, though. Fitness is a combination of diet, exercise, attitude (mentality) and genetics. However, exercise varies for everyone – someone who runs 50-60 miles a week could be just as healthy and fit as someone who has mileage up to 100 miles per week. While this study does look at the genetic differences between people, I think there is much more to fitness than just genes.

    As for limitations, diet was never mentioned. Did they control for this diet? This study was also only done on Caucasians, which could have a very different fitness from other ethnic groups. Like Stephanie mentioned before, the article states that some of the genes found in Caucasians isn’t even found in those of African Americans heritage. How can we expect someone who eats high amounts of fat to compete with someone who eats considerably more vegetables? Lifestyle of the group was not mentioned, either. Another thing that I found important was the lack of definition for “fit.” Did they look at BMIs, or did they find more complex fat-muscle ratios? For now, I’ll take this study with a grain of salt, since nothing to me pointed to causality, but rather just an association (for white people).

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  4. Fitness is absolutely a combination of multiple gene and environmental factors. This study is most definitely thought provoking, but it has limitations and the article uses choice words that I believe could be misleading to a reader. The study only examined healthy white volunteers. This hurts the generalizability of the findings to other ethnic groups. Tessa stated that they should have elaborated on what criteria was used to determine that they were "Healthy" individuals and I completely agree. There are varying degrees of health and people in these varying degrees respond very differently to exercise. They also only studied one type of aerobic exercise. It would be interesting to see if similar data is found in regards to weight lifting and muscle growth. The article further states that when they attempted to replicate the study, the SNPs did not have the same effect. Even with these findings, I see absolutely no reason to suggest that maybe people should just "take to the couch" as the article states. Exercise benefits people in many different ways depending on weight, diet, level of exercise, and also social factors like encouragement from others. Regardless of your genes, if there is anything that science has proven it is that exercise is beneficial.

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  5. I found the article “Is Fitness All in the Genes?” incredibly interesting. I had never thought about the possibility of genetics influencing one’s fitness. I believe however, that one’s genome is not the only determining factor of fitness level; rather, I believe that fitness is an interaction of genetics and environmental factors such as diet, exercise routine, and lifestyle. This study had some potential limitations, such as only studying white individuals. Had researchers included people representing many races, the study could be more generalizable to the general population. An important part of this study is how this information will be put to use? Will it become an excuse for people with genomes that are not conducive to fitness to lead unhealthy lifestyles? Will it affect the way doctors “treat” obesity? There is still much exciting research to be done on this subject.

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    1. Like Rebecca, I also found "Is Fitness All in the Genes" very interesting. To me, considering a relationship between genes and fitness level/ability is totally novel. Although I am not conviced that fitness is based soley on a person's genetics (I believe that environmental factors such as access to fitness centers, safe places to excercise, oppportunites to excerise/learn good fitness habits etc. are very relevent in determining one's fitness level) I believe that this research opens a lot of exciting doors. I think that the next steps that need to happen with this information is, as Rebecca mentions, generalizing this research to to all people (not just Caucasian individuals). After we have more general information we can start to think about how we will use this data and see how it fits into society.

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  6. Michelle TagermanApril 7, 2014 at 6:45 PM

    Based on what I have learned, I firmly believe that fitness is not purely based on one’s genome. Fitness is a combined interaction of genetics and environmental factors. This is similar to the study that found that people with the Trp64Arg mutation of the gene for the beta 3-adrenergic receptor may have an increased capacity to gain weight. The study explained that having the mutation is not a major determinant for being morbidly obese, but it may contribute to a person’s capacity to gain weight for those with an already high risk of obesity from environmental and behavioral factors. Thus, a person with the mutation is not guaranteed to be morbidly obese. I believe this is similar to the findings of the fitness study. The study mentions one particular SNP located on the gene ACSL1, which ‘possibly accounts for as much as 6% of the difference in response among people.’ Similar to the study on obesity, genetics are only one part of the equation, and “will never explain everything.”

    One potential limitation of the study is it only sampled “healthy white volunteers.” This is not a representative sample, and therefore, the findings can not be generalized to the general population. In addition, there are many other factors that can affect a person’s capacity and ability to exercise that were not clearly controlled for in this study, such as diet. Lastly, even if it was found that the gene did effect exercise, the study only focuses on one type of exercise, endurance exercise. It would be beneficial if the study looked at the relationship between SNPs and other types of exercise, such as yoga, for example.

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  7. I believe that this study has several limitations. I do not believe they said if they measured the participant's level of fitness before the study or not. I know they mentioned age, gender, body mass, etc. But they didn't say whether people were already previous conditioned for higher intensity exercise or not. So I think that is a limitation that could really influence the impact of this study.

    However, when I use all of the knowledge that I have learned over the semester, I believe that the fitness of a person is due to several factors. There are many things that influence how a person responds to exercise including environmental factors. But what I am worried about is what impact this article could have on people. Even through they say that this shouldn't be used as an excuse to not exercise, even listing the other benefits of exercise, I feel that there are going to be individuals who won't be motivated to exercise because of this. There are many people who might read this article but are health illiterate, which means they could interpret the information in the wrong way.

    While this could provide insight on how people respond to exercise and how we can further personalize exercise for optimum benefit, this study has limitations.

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  8. I do not believe that fitness is purely based on one's genome but rather that it is a combined interaction of genetics and environment/lifestyle. After I read the article posted above, I was interested in the topic and found this article to be fairly interesting:
    http://education.tamu.edu/news-archive/2014/02/it’s-genes-researchers-explore-connections-between-genetics-and-exercise
    This article talks about what Patrick referenced above, the idea that even though exercise and the successfulness of a workout is not due to genetics or one's genome, that it is still beneficial to the human body and has effect on the life span. Another idea I found interesting in this article is that it says that "Inactivity also turns on genes that can lead to or are associated with chronic diseases". This refers back to the beginning of the semester when we learned about epigenetics and the types of DNA modification. I think it also presents a good argument that exercise is not only in the genome because of this epigenetic correlation.
    Like so many people have stated above, there are many limitations in the article presented. The main ones that stood out to me were that the study only included "healthy" white participants and that only one type of exercise was tested. I know that not every type of exercise works for everyone's body so it would be interesting to see the difference in the study if they were able to include the different types of exercise and a larger and more diverse population.

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  9. Like other students, I also do not believe fitness is solely based on one's genome. Rather, I believe both genetics and environmental factors influence one's fitness. Although I do feel that the environmental factor is a greater factor determining fitness. And that is because I, personally, do not want to give people the chance to blame their genes that they aren't able to exercise and have them end up being lazy bums, and second, because I have personally seen individuals who you'd never would of that would be able to do any sort of exercise and people who have had disabilities, such as cancer be able to overcome them and live a very active lifestyle. Although genetics can be a factor, I do not see it as the main factor. Furthermore, the research in the Reynolds article had even stated that "neither the Heritage Study nor any other experiment to date had identified the specific genes that might be associated with a person’s physical response to exercise."

    Some limitations, which students' have already mentioned before but is always great to emphasize, is that not only did they look at only at white individuals, but "healthy white individuals." It would have been a stronger study if they included other individuals from different backgrounds to see what their results were. Another limitation is that diet was not included. Again, it may have been a stronger study if these participants were given a particular diet to see if there truly is a gene contributing to fitness.

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  10. I believe that one's level of fitness is based off of a combined interaction of genetics and environmental factors. Although an individual can have the genes to be more receptive to physical activity, it does not mean those who do not have those genes should avoid exercising because it's a lost cause. Reynolds states in her article that although some people do not have those genes, exercise is still an important activity everyone must partake in. Although one does not become more physically fit, the individual's overall health will improve if they regularly exercise. She quotes Dr. Bouchard "“There are countless other benefits provided by exercise,” he said, apart from whether it raises your VO2 max. “Exercise can reduce blood pressure and improve lipid profiles,” he said. It can better your health, even if, by certain measures, it does not render you more aerobically fit." I completely agree; people should still exercise regardless if you have the genes or not.

    A limitation in this study is that it does not look into multi-ethnic groups. It only have white participants, but when another study using African-Americans, results did not match up. Another limitation was that it did not look into the individual's overall health, and lifestyle including diet. Another is to look into what might motivate individuals to exercise. If this is researched, a public health policy can use that information to increase physical activity among the population. This approach is better than looking for individuals with the genes, rather it targets the entire general population.

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  11. No matter how much research is done in genetics, as Dr. Bouchard said in the article, "Genetics will never explain everything." One could argue that circumstances and environmental factors are just as important if not more important than genetics in influencing a person's fitness. Fitness is multidimensional, encompassing aerobic, muscular, mental and physical ability and wellness. Genetics may influence the effect of exercise, motivation to exercise and metabolism of a certain diet. Both fitness and the genetics behind fitness are so complex that it's impossible to say that fitness is purely based on one's genome.

    This study was limited because it only tested 473 white volunteers most likely from Baton Rouge, LA. In a similar study they suggested that the results of this study and the genes identified don't translate to African Americans. Therefore these results can't be generalized for the entire population. I think the study is also limited because it measures fitness only by maximal oxygen capacity, but as I said earlier fitness is multidimensional and can't be determined merely by one measurement of VO2.

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  12. Like many people ahead of me, I believe that fitness is a combination of genetic and environmental factors. As discussed many times in class, your genes predispose you to certain things, like being athletic, but it's not a guarantee that you will be athletic. Rather, the environment in which you were raised and currently live have a great impact on your actual behavior. If no one in your family was athletic and liked to watch TV instead, you might grow up to act similarly. While some people may see faster results when they work out, it doesn't mean that the rest of us will never see results. We may have to work harder, but it is possible. Having "non-athletic" genes isn't a death sentence if you're trying to be fit; rather you just have to put in that extra effort!

    Additionally, some of the limitations of the study include that it was only 473 people that were all white, which may prevent the study's conclusions from being applied to other races or ethnicities. More research needs to be done on larger populations of many different races and ethnicities for the information to be conclusive for the general population.

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  13. I do believe one’s genome plays a significant role in overall fitness. However, there is a vast array of environmental factors that play a significant role. While one person may have favorable fitness genes, maybe they do not have time to exercise and cannot afford to eat healthy foods, thus reducing their levels of fitness. However, if these people who had favorable fitness genes were to begin eating right and exercising, would their results be more favorable than somebody who doesn’t have the fitness SNPs but has been exercising and eating well all along? While it is hard to say, odds are those with the favorable fitness genes would be able to catch up to those lacking these genes fairly quickly. Just like with any trait or characteristic, there is no way to definitively say which has more influence, environment or genes, but both have a significant impact. I did note a lot of limitations in the study explained in this article. First, as they somewhat mentioned, was factors related to ethnicity. Ethnicity influences diet and attitudes toward exercise in the environmental realm, but also in the genetic realm as shown with the varying number of SNPs between races. Also, the study says that participants pedaled stationary bikes three times per week. Some people may respond better to a different form of exercise and attain better fitness levels if they had been asked to do something other than biking. I know that I would find riding a stationary bike very boring and would probably not try as hard as if I were to participate in a different form of exercise, which could greatly impact my fitness levels just due to interest. Lastly, I wondered if certain participants were involved in additional forms of exercise beyond the biking three times a week, as increased exercise overall could affect fitness levels and oxygen uptake.

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  14. Of course I do not believe that one's fitness progress is purely based on genetics. As we've seen with several conditions in this class, genetics does play a role in health; however, a genetic predisposition is not a definitive diagnosis! It is true that some people may just genetically have good physical features, fast metabolism, or as presented in this article, a SNP more responsive to aerobic exercise, but there is much more to fitness and exercise than genetics. I love working out. And one thing I've learned is that there is no universal workout regiment; everyone has to just find what works best for him or her. Aerobic exercise is not for everyone, neither is weight lifting, nor is there any such work out that works for every physique. Everyone's body will react differently to different workouts. What's important is that one finds what works best for his and her own needs and body. That being said, I think one of the limitations of this study is that they only tested aerobic exercise and the oxygen capacity. They did not test the fitness progression of other workouts in terms of muscle gain or endurance. I think it is unfair to say that there is a fitness gene, when fitness can mean different things to different people.

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  15. Lauren TamburelloApril 8, 2014 at 9:57 PM

    I definitely believe that fitness has to do with both genetics and environmental factors, especially diet and exercise habits. Although our genetics can influence how well our body metabolizes food and our physiological response to exercise, our exercise and eating behaviors also interacts with our genes to contribute to our fitness. I find that the biggest limitation to the study is that is only focuses on exercise and not nutrition, which both equally play a role in nutrition. In addition, another limitation to the study is that the study neglects the mental aspect of exercise and fails to identify genes that makes exercise feel enjoyable. This study was an interesting start to the study of genetics and fitness, much more needs to be done to further this research.

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  16. As we have learned this entire semester, we are not only affected by our genes, but also by our environment around us. Exercise is no different. It is interesting to see the correlation with specific SNPs with aerobic response. However, aerobic response is not the only indicator of health, and, like the article mentioned, there are many other benefits of exercise besides just building aerobic capacity.

    Thus, I believe fitness is based on the combination of genetics and environmental factors. Genes are important – it can affect things like metabolism, muscle:fat ratio, weight gain, etc. However, environmental factors also play a huge role, such as how much one eats, exercises, or access to particular fitness activities. Also, psychological enjoyment of a fitness activity, or social support can play a role in motivation to do particular exercises. It would be hard to pinpoint one specific factor that affects a person’s fitness, when so many things are involved.

    This study also has some potential limitations. The article mentioned one, and it was the type of exercise done. Perhaps people would respond differently to exercises besides cycling. Also, the study was done on healthy white volunteers, there could be different results based on initial health statuses or races. Also, perhaps the length of time or intensity of exercise could have different impacts on different people. These could all be things to consider when drawing conclusions from a study like this.

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  17. I believe that fitness is a combined interaction of genetics and environmental factors, but environmental factors contributing a bit more. The daily dietary and exercise choices individuals make determines their level of fitness. In a genetic perspective, one person can have a gene that allows them to have more positive benefits from a healthy diet and exercise than another person. However, in a biological perspective, eating adequate nutrition and exercising is required for healthy functioning—regardless of genetics.
    A limitation to these “exercise genetic research” studies is that they fail to take the life course perspective into account of the subjects. Like the study that found that some individuals can “increase in the amount of oxygen their bodies consumed during intense exercise,” which makes them fitter than others. However, this study only went on for 5 months where participants had to pedal stationary bicycles three times a week. It doesn’t take account what they do outside the study, like what they eat and how physical they have been throughout their lifetime. Hence, I believe that external factors play a larger role in determining fitness than genetics.

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  18. I don’t believe fitness is purely based on one’s genome, though it is an important factor, but is a combined interaction of genetics and environmental factors. In addition to genetics, diet and exercise are large factors to take into consideration when discussing fitness. Although having a predisposition to being fit would be nice, it does not guarantee that you won’t become obese or unhealthy if you were to eat junk food/ fast food for every meal.

    There were many limitations to this study. First it only looked at Caucasians, which means the results are not universally applicable. The study also did not define what “fit” is as different people have different definitions/ levels of fitness. Diet was also not mentioned in the study, which is an important factor of fitness. Although a good start to studying the effects of genes on fitness, this study still needs more work and factors to take into consideration.

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  19. I thought that the article was interesting and that the results of the study are a breakthrough for genome wide association studies. I always thought that genetics play a large role in how well people respond to exercise. However, as with most things, genetics is not the only factor. I believe that a combined interaction of genetics and environmental factors is the major contributor our response to exercise. While some people might respond better to exercise due to their genes, I think that external factors such as diet also play a role.

    One major limitation to this study is that it involved only white individuals. There’s bound to many differences between different ethnicities. More studies should be done that include multiple ethnicities/races.

    This article talks about a test that measures your genetic responsiveness to aerobic training, based on an analysis of 27 DNA markers:
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/fitness/frustrated-with-your-results-at-the-gym-the-answer-is-in-your-genes/article8732325/

    I thought it was an interesting article. It stated that people who received a result of ‘low responder’ refocused their goals and switched to a different type of exercise.

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  20. I believe that an individuals inclination to exercise and maintain a exercise regimen can be influenced by their genetics, but is definitely impacted by their environment. These environmental factors can either emphasize any SNPs or mutation that are already in an individual's genetic make-up, but they can also put someone towards becoming more fit, going against any genetic mutation they may have. They are, essentially, what determines whether the genetic variations are expressed or not. For this reason, I believe that fitness is based on a combination of environmental and genetic factors.

    Some limitations of the study may be that the participants were comprised of solely caucasian, healthy individuals. The issue with this is that the findings cannot be widely applied to other ethnicities and races. Also since the study's participants were all healthy individuals, the results can't necessarily be applied to people who are considered unhealthy. Overall, the results aren't universally relevant to all individuals with the SNP on the gene ACSL1. Another limitation to the study was the fact that "healthy" was distinctly and properly defined. This causes a grey area when determining who is healthy and who is unhealthy which makes the application of the results from the study even more difficult. I think the study needs to broaden several aspects of their study before genetics can be considered to have a serious impact on fitness in individuals.

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  21. Based on what we have learned in class and the New York Times article, I do not believe fitness is based purely on one’s genome. I believe that most things have both a genetic and environmental factors that affect it. This study identified a gene that when present made a person improve their cardiovascular function, and were lower in number in those individuals that did not improve as much or at all. This definitely has an effect on cardiovascular fitness with people, but I believe the study is limited.
    First of all, all of the participants exercised at the same intensity for the same amount of time. Maybe the degree of exercise was not enough for those with less of the identified SNPs, and therefore did not affect their cardiovascular ability. In addition, these results were only found in a group of white study subjects. When researchers attempted to replicate the study in African American research subjects only a few of the originally 21 identified SNPs made a difference in their exercise ability. The ethnic differences in these findings are significant for further research, but were also a limitation in this particular study.
    Also, researchers only tested one type of exercise, cardiorespiratory fitness. I wonder if the SNPs identified had the same effect on different exercises, such as endurance training or weight lifting. It is possible that it only pertained to a specific type of exercise. It is also possible that those individuals with fewer copies of the SNPs may excel in other types of activities when compared to those with more copies. It is also important to consider the activity and lifestyles of the subjects outside of the study. Some of them may have been doing additional exercises, different types of jobs that influenced their movement, and most importantly different diets. If those with fewer SNPs had unhealthy diets, it would make sense that their cardio exercise did not improve, and that would not be dependent on SNP copies.

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    1. I definitely agree with you--there are a hundred different definitions of "fit" and exploring only such a small portion is really limiting.

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  22. I truly believe that fitness is a complete mix of genetic predispositions and environment. These genes that are talked about in this article that are seen to impact VO2 over time may provide information about how different people react to cycling over time, but are not the only predictor of a person’s overall fitness. These genes may target different ways that people can optimize their training and fitness levels, but are not the sole predictor. Limitations in this study include their sample, which consisted of “fit” Caucasians. This description is both vague and limits the external validity. For example, when applied to African Americans, only a handful of the specific SNP’s applied to their results. In addition, the article states, “No obvious, consistent differences in age, gender, body mass or commitment marked those who responded well and those who continued to huff and struggle during their workouts, even after five months.” However, it fails to control and adjust for confounders and take into effect important factors such as diet, family history, past fitness history, etc. These factors could have a substantial influence on the cause and effect of those genes. In addition, the only exercise method used was a cycling regimen, which may provide a preference to those who enjoy, have experience with, or have a predisposition to cycling. Using various methods may have created different results.
    I also wonder if epigenetics could affect this. I might not fully understand how this would work, but perhaps years of a bad diet or smoking or a certain factor like that, could influence what SNP’s are turned “on” and “off” and therefore be the cause of the study results. I suppose understanding what the definition of “healthy” used would provide clarity as to whether or not these factors are possible confounders.

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  23. Obviously fitness is not purely based on one's genome, but rather it is based on many factors. While some persons may be genetically predisposed to maintaining weight or being more affected by exercise, things like the social environment, physical environment, and access to resources affect fitness. For example, while persons with high socioeconomic status can afford (both monetarily and time-wise) to go to a fitness clubs and shop for healthy foods, persons with lower socioeconomic status would be more likely to not have time nor money for working out and shopping for fewer calories.
    A potential limitation of the study is the fact that this research was based off of White individuals. The research was then applied to an African-American study population, where they found fewer SNPs were involved with fitness. Further research needs to be done to improve the generalizability of the results.

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  24. Much of what I have already learned, along with the findings in the New York Times article, suggest that fitness is not purely based on one’s genome but rather it is a combined interaction of genetics and environmental factors, such as diet, workout routines, intensity, hydration, etc. Throughout the entire genomics class, everything we learned about that has had a genetic component has also had an environmental component and epigenetic factors that play a role in the overall outcome of each individual, so I do not see any reason why exercise and fitness would deviate from this somewhat established norm.

    An obvious limitation to the study was the fact that it examined the genomes of 473 healthy white volunteers, and found 21 SNPs (with 42 individual versions), of which only a few played a role in the exercise response when Dr. Bouchard tried to replicate his findings in a subset of African-American participants. This tells you that there are different SNPs and genes that affect and influence different groups of people ethnically speaking, but what it does not tell you is whether or not this study can be replicated with a different white population. If it cannot be replicated in another white population, that would be a huge limitation to the findings of this study because that would almost essentially mean that it could not be replicated at all. Moreover, all of the participants in the study came from the Heritage Family Study, so they likely share something in common that made them a part of that study that might have been beneficial for the findings of this study. If the study selected at random which white persons would be the participants, the study may have yielded different results.

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  25. I do not believe that fitness is purely based on one's genome, rather it is a combined interaction of genetics and environmental factors. I find it hard to take such a complex part of being a human and say that it can all be determined from a few genes. While scientists have found links, they also strongly emphasize the fact that they are years and years away from solid findings, and that genetics DO NOT determine everything. I think it is interesting that they found a few SNPs that need to be investigated further. With fitness, environment is very important. I also feel that human emotion and motivation is a big part of fitness, and this is hard to measure or quantify.

    In regards to this study, it was very limiting in that it only looked at those of white race. Especially in a country as diverse as the U.S., when many people are coming from diverse backgrounds, this doesn't help make the data applicable to the larger group of people that live in the US. I think that by only choosing white volunteers, the scientists are strongly limiting themselves and their data.

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  26. I found the article to be very interesting. I do believe that fitness is influenced by a person's genome. However, I don't believe it is the only factor. If someone were to have the gene for good fitness that's not to say they wouldn't have to work out and train to be a great athlete. However, if someone was training on the elite level and not seeing much progress, maybe they would be affected by their genome.

    One limitation is that the study focused on the elite level for sports. I was confused as to whether or not this information could be applied to those who are not on the elite level. Would this study still apply to them? Also, as we have discussed before just because you have a gene, this does not mean it will be expressed.

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  27. As others have stated, fitness is not solely dependent on genetics. Although certain people may have the specific repetitions of SNPs associated with increased benefit from aerobic exercise it does not mean those who do not have the SNPs do not have the determination or mental fitness to acquire the results that come easy to those with a genetic “advantage”. Fitness is a combination of environmental, behavioral, and genetic factors. As scientists have said genes do not determine everything. I do not believe based on this study that we can strongly say genes are causal in fitness. Humans are very complex and as we have learned factors such as diet can alter the genes and may have the ability to turn off switches increasing metabolism thus increasing weight loss and overall fitness.

    This study had limitations in that it only use a small sample of white volunteers and then only looked at an even smaller portion of blacks where results were minimal. It is never wise to use a small sample when looking at genetic studies because the results will likely become skewed or no will be ambiguous. Although humans vary slighlty in DNA make up, those slight variations can be the difference in obtaining 19 SNPs or 21 SNPs. The article does not state it but it is important that diet and personal level of fitness are taken into account.

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  28. This article raises an interesting topic that can lead to many controversial discussions as well. For example, in class we talked about getting genetic testing done on children to see if they are predestined to be an athlete when they get older. This could cause parents to predetermine their child's future before they have a chance to decide what they want to do. If a parent forces a child to compete in track because they have a specific gene that will allow them to excel in the sport, then the child might resent the sport even more and actually end up performing worse. It is examples like this that lead me to believe that one's athletic ability is about nature and nurture. One can be born with the genetic make up to be the fastest runner in the world, but if they do not grow up in an environment that healthily pushes him or her, and supports them, then they can not be expected to grow and reach this potential.
    This gene distinguishing could also lead to people using it as an excuse to not be physically active. If one finds out that they don't contain a version of the SNPs that allows them to become fit, then they could see it as their body telling them they shouldn't work out. They could use it as their excuse not to live a healthy and active lifestyle. With the growing rate of obesity in america, we can't afford to have people not excising because they can't become as physically fit as some other people.

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  29. I also do not think fitness is purely derived from genetics. It shouldn't be, since we have discussed how genes are influenced by factors such as environment and lifestyle choices. There surely is some association between fitness and genetics, as evidenced by this article and the phenomena of natural selection and evolution. However, this association is not absolute and can easily be overcome by individuals trying to increase their fitness through diet and routines catered to their needs.
    There are a few limitations of the study presented in the New York Times article. As many other students mentioned, the study mainly looked at healthy white subjects. The researchers later looked at a subset of African American subjects as well, but I still think a more diverse sample could have been studied. Additionally, the article states that factors such as age, gender, and body mass index did not conclusively explain the difference in fitness between individuals. I find this somewhat hard to believe. I feel that if studied in more detail, these variables could be responsible for some of the variability in fitness among individuals.

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  30. I think that, as with all aspects of health and fitness, there are several contributing factors. It is dangerous to state that possessing this gene automatically makes you a great athlete. That simply is not the case, as is that true with every other gene we have studied this semester. Looking back at our breast cancer lectures, numerous times we discussed how a positive BRCA 1/2 test result is not a death sentence. Several other factors contribute to a person's probability of developing breast cancer. A person can become a great athlete from positive genetic, environmental, as well as social and behavioral factors. As we discussed in class, it takes a strong commitment to working hard, putting in the hours to proactive, and persevering through every physical obstacle in order to become a great athlete. Social support is also an important factor. If you have family members who were great athletes, they can help guide you and push you to be better. Additionally, if you have teammates that you can rely on to keep you motivated and help you push yourself to the limits, this contributes to your overall success. Good genes help you physically, but you still need to put the work in to actually maximize the genetic benefits you may have in terms of muscle capacity and other heritable traits.

    As we discussed in class, there are severe limitations to these studies. The statistical power of the studies is quite low due to the small sample size of elite athletes. Again, the studies are showing an association between possessing the gene and athletic performance; a causal link has yet to be shown. As discussed above, these could be spurious results due to actual causes of high athletic performance - social and environmental factors. Nonetheless, this is promising research that could provide us with more answers in the future. However, for now, we need to be careful not to overlook the already proven factors to athletic performance.

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  31. Like a lot of other factors that we've talked about, there is more than one contributing factors that effect people's health. Exercise is one of these topics; just because this study found 21 SNP's that differed in active people versus lazy people that doesn't equate to a full relationship between the two. There are numerous other factors that affect people's drive and motivation to exercise regularly. Also, people cannot always help how their body will react to exercise, no matter if they follow the same workout or nutrition program as other people. This relates to the discussion we had today about gene doping for athletes; you can test two people who do the exact same exercise regime and nutrition and one person will outperform the other. Athletes can put in the 10,000 to become coined 'elite' and one will still be better than the other. Environment, motivation and others all effect how people react to exercise.
    There are always limitations to genome-wide association studies. One of the limitations is that they only looked at White individuals. This is definitely not a way to go about generalizing an entire population. The number of people they looked at was also much too small to make sweeping generalizations; 473 is a small sample size and that's what makes these generalizations seem so important. Another limitation is that this study is looking at 'normal' citizens. We've talked about athletic events and gene doping for improved performance but everyday people don't need to have the same prowess as elite athletes.

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  32. I agree with what many of the classmates said above. I think that as we have discussed in class, genetics are not the only factors when it comes to health. Such as in the obesity example, there are other factors playing a role other than genetics, such as diet and exercise. However, I think the same can apply to this article on fitness and athletic ability. According to this article, I think that genetic influence on athletic ability in some situations. However, I think this article fails to look at the other confounding factors that could also play a role in an individuals athletic ability or lack there of. Some limitations of the study are that they don't look at the mental factors that could play a role, as we discussed in class. It is not taking into account things like the mental drive that some people may have more than others. It also does not take into account other unhealthy habits and behaviors that people may be participating in like smoking, drugs, or alcohol, that may also have an effect on their athletic ability. Therefore, I would need to see further research on how genetics impact one's athletic ability to really be able to make a decision about what I feel is the main contributor to someone's athletic ability.

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  33. Being an athlete, I can say with a lot of confidence that fitness is not solely based on one’s genome, but rather a combination of factors such as eating a healthy diet, working out regularly and getting enough sleep. It is not difficult to be in good shape and does not require you to have the genetic makeup for it. Working out may be easier for some than others, but if you stay disciplined and a create a healthy routine for yourself, it can be accomplished. If you eat foods filled with fats and sugars, rather than fill your diet with fruits and vegetables and combine that with physical activity, you will not see gains in your overall health and fitness. It is true that if two people do the same work out routine, one may become fit more quickly. This may have some what due to genetics, but individuals body make up are all different and each of us require different types of training.

    This study is a good starting point for how genes may be a factor in fitness, but unfortunately there are many flaws to this study. One is that they have only looked at healthy white individuals. This is only a portion of our population and we cannot hold it to be true for all people. Also, the study only used stationary bikes as an example of aerobic exercise they conducted, this is a limitation because most individuals have different body make ups. One possibility is that one could benefit from running or weight lifting rather than only using the stationary bike.

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  34. I agree with the comments above that athletic ability and fitness is a combination of genetics, motivation and environmental factors. Genes may play a factor in the way one's body metabolizes fats and this could lead to different levels of fitness in healthy people, but it also depends a lot on a individual's lifestyle and environment. The study is definitely interesting and it shows that a lot more research needs to be done to see exactly how the genes affect fitness and performance. It was flawed in that only healthy, white volunteers were used in the study so therefore it cannot be extrapolated to other racial groups.

    As an athlete most of my life, there are many factors that come into play other than genetics, such as eating healthy, getting enough sleep and having the motivation to do well. Some people exercise just to keep fit while others are elite athletes that are more into fitness. Also, everyone has different body makeups so no fitness program fits all people. That was another flaw to the study because all the participants used stationary bikes which only targets a few muscle groups and evokes a different aerobic response from individuals. However, this study is the first of its kind and its promising that in the future we may know a lot more about genetics and their impact on fitness and exercise.

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  35. I agree with Dr. Bouchard's quote at the end of the article, stating that genetics will never explain everything. Fitness is based on interaction between environmental and genetics factors. For example, if an individual grows up in an environment where exercise is not encouraged for one's own being, his or her body might change due to the low levels of exercise, which might influence how his or her body responds to future exercise. Moreover, diet and workout routine may play a factor in fitness. If an individual tends to eat unhealthy foods, this might affect body processes and slow down the metabolism, affecting how exercise plays a role in fitness level.

    In addition, there are limitations to the studies mentioned in the article. In the Heritage Family Study, the participants were all white so the results cannot be generalized to an entire population. In addition, the genomewide association study only examined cardiorespiratory health and not other aspects of fitness. It does not mention whether or not the participants' physical appearance improved or whether other aspects improved, such as blood pressure and lipid profiles. It is crucial to examine all aspects of fitness and genetics and since these areas have not been researched or studied upon, it is impossible to conclude that genetics is the reason behind fitness levels of individuals.

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  36. I believe that this article does a good job in explaining how genetics plays a role in determining our predispositions, but it also brings about other factors such as the environment and our diet. It is important that people reading articles like this are aware of these other external factors that play a role as well. Genes do play a role in our health, but if a person is extremely inactive, sedentary, and consumes large amounts of processed foods, this does not mean that this person will stay healthy just because of their genes. We also learned that to date 187 genes have been found that are linked to fitness. Gene interaction varies from person to person, so these genes may be expressed differently depending on the individual. I found it interesting in class when we talked about genetic testing being used as a shortcut to determine the performance of an athlete. I feel like if recruiters only searched for superior athletes solely on the basis of their genetic composition, they would miss out on a lot of people that put in the physical and mental hard work in order to improve and become elite athletes. This puts those with genetic predispositions at a disadvantage and does not properly recognize those that work hard to become elite athletes.

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  37. I liked this article and found it interesting that our fitness can be traced down to a genetic level. I believe that environmental factors play a big role in our fitness though. While having a faster metabolism may help you maintain a slim figure in the short run, if you are not eating or exercising regularly you will have health problems. Ultimately it is a balance between what your genes code for and how you treat your body.
    This study was limited in that it only explored cardiovascular and respiratory health; as we know, fitness affects much more than that and those two factors alone don't define health.

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  38. This article was interesting and I believe that a person's athletic capability is not solely dependent on genetics. I do believe however, that genetics provide a huge factor into a person's athleticism. There are certain people who are just more better fit and athletic than many of us. With the same training and same exercise, or even with little to no exercise, they produce better athletic results. That can make people believe that it is depend on their genetics. But there are also many other factors that would effect a person's athleticism. One huge factor is the environment. Someone's surrounding can have a huge effect on your current and future fitness level. Not just the natural environment but also the economic environment as well. People with higher economic standings can acquire better resources and training facilities. This would help them further improve their fitness level. Also, another key is their determination and mental health. Athletes with more determination and positive mental health will work hard and do their best in hoping to archive their goal. No matter how gifted someone is with superior genes, if they are not determined and not trying their hardest to work for their goal, they will still not perform to their standard. In conclusion, I believe genes play a major role but there are many other factors as well.

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  39. I do not believe that fitness is purely genetics and is rather a combination of factors, but I think the genetic factor is actually an extremely small factor in fitness. In this study they only discussed aerobic capacity as a determination of fitness. I think a much more comprehensive study that looked at a much more complete definition of fitness would be needed to provide any sort of concrete link between genes and fitness.
    Genetics affect fitness by giving someone the basic tools to be fit or not be fit, some people may have better tools than others. But I think what you do with those tools based on how motivated you are, what your environment is, what pressures to be fit or not exercise are put on someone by others, among other factors are much more important to determining fitness than what your genes are. Someone may have the SNPs the article discussed and have the potential to more easily increase aerobic capacity than others but if they don't care about exercising or are unable to access a safe and affordable place to exercise or have no time to exercise will have a much larger determining factor on your fitness than the genes.
    I think it would be better to say that genes affect one's potential fitness but has a limited affect on their actual fitness which is much more determined by training and being dedicated to or able to exercise. While we did discuss in class whether or not one's genes affect one's motivation to exercise, the study had so many limitations and did not consider the infinite environmental/social aspects that affect one's motivation to exercise I do not trust those findings at all. I don't believe your genetics have a statistically significant affect on your motivation when compared to other factors which have a much more concrete and provable affect on motivation to exercise. So in conclusion I really don't think there is any proof at this point that genetics influence fitness other than a potential for fitness that many may or may not recognize based on many other factors.

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  40. As so many of my classmates have stated, an individual's level of fitness depends both on her genes as well as the environmental factors in which she was raised. I certainly believe that the study has significant limitations, including the type of physical activity that was performed (cycling), and thus did not truly account for the different types of lifestyles its white participants had.

    Recently, I came across http://www.xrgenomics.com/, a website based in the UK that's devoted to providing its clients with the best possible fitness advice by incorporating both a person's genes along with his/her environmental factors. Considering the study we read, as well as our discussion in class, I'm skeptical that such a service would be useful with the genetic component. After all, we learned that 187 genes were associated with fitness levels - and of the studies performed so far, these were association studies. These 187 genes are not causal, and thus we can't truly say that if you have a certain SNP, you're more likely to be fit than someone else.

    It's especially important to note that XRGenomics doesn't list the genes that they're testing for on the website - and when the test costs $249.50 USD (or £149), you should want to know exactly what genes this test is looking for! Instead, the test will diagnose you as either a "high responder" or a "low responder" to aerobic exercise and tailor the test accordingly. While I suspected that services like this would exist, especially after we learned about 23andMe, XRGenomics isn't being transparent about its policies to the public - or if it does list the genes that they test in the DNA swab, they only list it in the fine print. XRGenomics may tailor their test specifically to their clientele, but until we have further proof that genetics do play a large role in one's fitness level, it might be best to wait before purchasing their services.

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  41. Alexander de GrootApril 11, 2014 at 1:21 AM

    I believe that fitness is based on the combined interaction of genetics and environmental factors, with environmental factors carrying more weight. If anything, I think genes might only offer a slight advantage to some people. In a previous lecture, we discussed obesity and how some people have a gene that makes them more susceptible to becoming obese. While obesity can be influenced by genetics, it is still clear that the main culprit is the surrounding environment. I think the same can be applied to genes for fitness. Fitness genes probably aren't the main reason for a person's ability to be more responsive to exercise. It's more likely that the environment and the genes work together to create an effect. If a person is surrounded by an environment that doesn't promote general fitness (i.e. a suburban community with few side walks and the need to drive everywhere), then that person will not be able to improve their fitness levels.

    The study presented in the NY Times article has several limitations. For one, the only subjects in the study were white, which mean that the results are not valid for groups of people who are not white. Second, the sample size was relatively small with only 473 people. The results from this study might provide some basis for forming a hypothesis regarding genes and their influence on fitness, but they are farm from indicating a direct causation/correlation. More diverse and larger studies need to be conducted in order to see the true effect of genes on fitness.

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  42. I thought this article was extremely interesting, but also troublesome. If these genes are isolated and can be found in a simple genetic test, I worry that it will discourage people without the gene from exercising. A lot of people exercise because they enjoy it or because they are trying to get in shape, but there are other health benefits associated with exercise. Even people without this gene should still participate in cardio workouts, as this is extremely important in maintaining good heart health. Just because people are unable to endure heavy exercise, doesn't mean that they should never walk anywhere, or participate in any other type of light cardio.

    I believe that genetics and environment both play a role in fitness. Depending on where you live has a huge impact on fitness. While many people who live in the suburbs exercise regularly, living in a city causes one to participate in some sort of fitness actively everyday, whether that is walking to class, the train, to work or any other various places. It might seem that this is minimal, but if you were to count the steps taken everyday it would be a large amount. Other environmental factors also play a role in fitness and should also be considered when genetic fitness is measured.

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  43. I do not think that genes are the sole factor in one's fitness. I think genes might play a small role in fitness, like they do for many things, but there are so many outside factors. I think a healthy diet, exercise routine, and other healthy lifestyle choices play a huge role in one's fitness and athletic ability. I feel like if someone got genetic testing done and found that they were genetically predisposed to having bad fitness, that would just be another excuse for them not to exercise. People already have enough excuses to not exercise, so I don't think genetics should be another one. It also could work the other way. If someone found that they were genetically predisposed to being fit, they might think that they are healthy enough without having to exercise.

    Also, I found the article we read about gene doping interesting, but I really disagree with the concept of it. Elite athletes have worked very hard to get where they are, and I don't think people should be able to call themselves elite if they got there by gene doping.

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  44. I found this article interesting, but perhaps blown out of proportion. I do not disagree that genetics do play a role in one's physical fitness and health, but I think that the role genes play in our physical capabilities are significantly smaller than other factors. Looking past the obvious role that genes play in determining our height and build, which obviously affects how fast we can run or how much weight we can lift, it seems to me that genes are not actually all that important to fitness. I believe that practice and determination are going to increase one's physical capabilities. Sure, the person on the treadmill beside you may be genetically predisposed to slightly increased endurance, but if you both train hard, you'll both be able to accomplish the same thing in time. Someone with a gene that increases endurance who has never run a day in his life will not outperform the daily runner without the gene. Genes may be able to help one develop more quickly, but I believe a skill is developed through practicing, not through genetics.

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  45. I believe that like most things, fitness is a combination of both genetics and environment. While studies may show that certain genes are linked to better exercise outcomes, they do not account for the mentality of those who exercise every day. Committing to exercise is easy for some and hard for others. Whether their genes or their environment is to blame we cannot be sure.
    This study followed a group of white volunteers and watched them exercise as well as sequencing their genome. Perhaps because these people were volunteers they already believed that part of their health was due to their genes. The study did not look at environmental factors, such as the communities the volunteers lived in. For some, exercising is not an option because a simple walk outside of the home is dangerous. In cases like these, going for a run, or a bike ride is out of the question.
    Also, as I mentioned, the study did not take into account the mentality of the study subjects. The article claimed that the basic drive to want to exercise runs in families. It did not explore the idea that perhaps that drive exists because of ideological family values, and not genetic predispositions. If a child grows up in a family where her parents both exercise, wouldn't she be more likely to exercise as an adult out of habit? It is questions like these that leads me to believe that a more extensive study in this field is needed in order to determine what exactly is genetic and what is environmental about exercise.

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  46. From what we have discussed in class, I do not think that genetics are the only contributing factor to someones level of fitness. Genetics obviously can influence many things, and perhaps do make up a component of someones fitness level-- but they are not the only factor. I think that this article was interesting, but the study had some limitations. As discussed in class this week, we might expect someone who's parents are athletic to have a genetic predisposition to athleticism-but this would be incorrect because there is genetic variation. The study also didn't account for how much the participants actually enjoy exercise. Someone may have a higher VO2 max because of their genetics, but if they do not enjoy exercise the same way that someone else does, it all means nothing. Likewise, someone who is not genetically predisposed to fitness might have the drive to train harder than someone who has a certain gene. Hard work, practice, and enjoyment are all contributing factors to how well someone will perform.

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  47. This article bothered me somewhat, as it seemed to try and place the burden of failed attempts to get fit solely on exercise regimens. I had two major criticisms about the study: 1) some participants could put more energy into the routine than others, 2) dietary habits were not examined. One could participate in the same exercise regimen as many others, but if they do not exert the same amount of energy, or more, then they will not burn as many calories and receive as great a benefit as one who puts in a lot of effort. Also, I have always believed that diet and exercise go hand in hand when working to get fit, but that diet plays a much more important role than exercise. The saying, 'you are what you eat,' is something I consider valid. You can exercise 3x a week but eat a high fat/carb diet everyday, and of course you will not see results. The way you lose weight is by burning more calories than you consume. It is true that exercise can help in this way, but if the foods you consume are high in calories, then you will never reach a caloric deficit. Therefore, I do not believe that exercise is the most important factor in the quest to get fit; but merely a component of the journey.

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  48. In my opinion, the ability to perform well in a sport has to do with both genetic and environmental factors. Although the genetic portion can show that they are destined to do sports someone who doesn't have those genes doesn't necessarily mean they can't do sports. A person can always train a lot to increase there stamina for running or learns techniques to become a good athlete. In order to become a good athlete thought as much as fitness is a big contributing factor, the mental factor is the most important part of doing well and reaching that elite level. The athlete has to make sure that they can with stand any situation and complications that go on. Also, as much as having the genes is great, if you don't exercise everyday those genes don't do anything. You have to use those genes and train them regularly to become an elite athlete. Just sitting there doing nothing and thinking that your gonna become an athlete is not gonna work.

    The limitations to this study are that the people focused in this study were white. With having a study that included 473 white volunteers how can anyone put this outcome of this study to be considered a bigger part of this field of sports and athletics. They can also have other environmental factors that are different by diet and other activities that has happened in there past life. If they all had different genes and the same diet and environmental conditions it would be easier to figure out a more reliable outcome.

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  49. I do not believe fitness is solely the product of genetic factors. However, I do think it plays a role. For me, environmental factors are more influential in fitness ability. One important factor is mental health. Although my father was a very good athlete and played college basketball, my mother was the complete opposite. I played basketball for a short time when I was younger, however I was not instantly a good player just because my dad played. If I had stayed with sport, it would be interesting to see if with practice I would be a good player. If so, I would attribute my success to environmental factors, not genetic ones. From what we learned in class, skeletal muscle and strength is known to be highly heritable. I do believe I inherited my skeletal muscle from him but I do not think my athletic ability can be solely attributed to my father. When I am running for competition or long distances, my mental state of mind plays a huge role in how fast or how far I go.

    In the studies mentioned in “Genomic Predictors of the Maximal O2 Uptake Response to Standardized Exercise Training Programs” mentioned in the NYT article, the sample of people used is interesting. One limitation is that the sample was comprised of all whites. The study would be more useful if it included people from a diverse range of ethnicities and races. Also, I am wondering why they chose bicycling instead of an activity like running.

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  50. I think that is fairly obvious that fitness is not purely based on ones genome. From reading the article, it does not seem that the article is talking about how our genes dictate our fitness directly at all. Rather, they examined how certain SNPs can alter the rate at which we could improve our fitness. In reality, genes alone will not determine our phenotype. Like many have already said, there are so many other factors that can determine our fitness such as personal motivation, work ethic, diet and environment. Therefore, it is ridiculous to think that our genes are the only contributor to our fitness level. However, that is not to say that our genetic make up can not dictate our fitness to a degree. From reading the article, it just seems like the SNPs they look at affect the rate of which people obtain results from exercise. This is not at all surprising since it is similar to how our genes can predispose people to being obese due to an altered metabolism. So it wouldn’t be very surprising if there were SNPs that separated each one of us from the degree that we benefit from exercise.

    For limitations, the two major ones were that the study did not control for diet and they only looked at Caucasians. Our diet dictates our ability to benefit from exercise to a large degree. Improving our fitness level would be difficult if we had an extremely high daily fat intake. Also, limiting the study to one ethnic group really limits the applicability information that was obtained. The whole point of GWAS studies is to get a comprehensive overview of how different alleles and SNPs interact with one another to develop a particular phenotype. The fact that they completely limited the study to Caucasians tells me that the findings they had in their study are far too preliminary (as the scientist carrying out the study even claims) to draw any conclusions from it. Of course, simple logic tells us that our genes play some role in our fitness level. However, at this point, even with this study, it is far too soon to definitively determine exactly what role our genes are playing.

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  51. I personally do not believe that one’s fitness level is purely based on their genome, but is based on a combination of factors such as diet, workout regiment, motivation levels, and emotions. Genetics can play a small role in fitness, however environmental factors are the key player in determining someone’s fitness level. I’m a runner and I feel that motivation has played a huge part in where I am today with my running, fitness wise. I also love the sport, and enjoying what you do will help people maintain their fitness routine and be consistent with their training. One limitation of this study is that the workout regiment of each subject that was observed only consisted of pedaling stationary bikes. Each individual is going to respond to a workout differently, so results should not be based on each individual performing the same workout. I think that different forms of exercise, such as running, swimming, boxing etc…should be included in the study in order to obtain more accurate results. Another limitation is the sample size. Only 473 subjects were used in the study and I think that is too small of a population to base data off of and make an accurate conclusion.

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  52. I have no choice but to refer this back to the genes that were associated with diabetes and cheating genes. Articles like this give the public nothing but an idea that efforts that are put into developing one’s athleticism or healthy diet are merely useless attempts. Personally, I do believe that there are factors that decide one’s athleticism at time of birth, but only to an extent. Sure, the genes may play a role in some athletes, but a good athlete is made of only a little bit of athletic genes and a lot of efforts that were put after birth such as lifestyles and diet. Does this mean that a good athlete can be made at birth if genetic engineering was to improve in the future? Also, this study proves nothing but the fact that exercise is a factor that plays a role in improvement of athleticism.

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    1. I really like how you referenced the monogamy gene article! I like how you say this study proves nothing but the factor of exercise playing a major role in the improvement of athleticism.

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  53. I believe that genes do play a significant role in fitness but environmental factors play a large role too. Similar to the susceptibility of a person to get cancer, both genes and environment work together. In terms of fitness external factors like diet, exercise routines, family, culture, working habits, recreational habits, money, responsibilities and many more contribute to a person’s fitness. If a person lives in a dangerous neighborhood it may be unrealistic for them to run outside. Despite what many people say I believe you aren’t just “naturally fit”. You might be more fit than someone else but that’s not to say you don’t need to exercise to be fit. Therefore the environmental factor of working out is the most crucial component to fitness. Genetics is important to for someone’s willingness to exercise or the benefits they get from exercise, but even if someone find it hard to consistently stick to exercise it can be done. Ultimately environment is the most important contribution to fitness. I think it’s important to consider epigenetic factors in this idea because if your grandparents and parents are overweight and do not exercise I think maybe your genetics changes so you are more prone to being overweight and not exercising.

    Some of the limitations I found in the study outlined were that the study was only conducted on white people. The study does not consider other ethnicities and the different effects the genetic changes could have on other races/ethnicities. Another problem was that the study tested aerobic fitness using bike, which relies on leg strength to work harder. Therefore if someone does not have the same leg strength they may not be able to work as hard as another person and get their vo2 max up. The study did not considered muscular endurance. Another limitation was the study only looked at vo2 max. This is not the only test for aerobic fitness and testing heart rate may have produced different results.

    I found this really interesting news article that states there is now a genetic test to say whether you are built for the benefits of aerobic exercise. I think this is very interesting but also discouraging at the same time because aerobic exercise is crucial in everyday life to stay healthy and prevent diseases.
    http://greatist.com/fitness/genetic-test-predict-exercise-101512

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  54. Fitness is definitely a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Even though genes may help you and predispose you for possibly being an excellent athlete, it doesn't mean you ever will get to the professional level without the work and effort needed. The environment, the parents of the child, friends, social class of an individual being able to afford to play competitive sports at a young age, diet and exercise and many other factors influence how a person will use their genetics to make it to a high level in athletics. There needs to be more research on this topic and more people have to be used in the study for the future.

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  55. I believe that both genetic and environmental factors have a hand in a person's fitness and athleticism. Like we've discussed in class, it's true that there are people who have inherited genes that have been deemed related to their ability to perform better in sports than the average person. However, genes can only do so much. The individual would have to exercise or participate in physical activities to actually utilize the gene to its fullest potential. Environmental factors such as socioeconomic status or living an unhealthy lifestyle do have an effect on how well an individual would be able to do physical activities. However, I do believe it all comes down to a mental game with one's self. If the person's goal is to win gold at the olympics, then with determination and hard work, that person can achieve his/her dream. If another person has the same goal, but constantly puts him/herself down, then they will achieve very little.

    There are several limitations in the study outlined in the article. Some of the more obvious limitations include a small population as well as limiting the study to only one type of ethnicity. In order for this study to be more conclusive, the population should be increased as well as include a study for other ethnicities. No longer do we live in a world where you can only find a group of people in a certain region. Many countries, the United States being a big one, are now melting pots. Another limitation would be the type of exercise that was performed by the participants in the study. Everyone responds differently to various things. Some people may take well to pedaling a stationary bike as a form of exercise, while others may do better at swimming.

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  56. As someone who is involved in the fitness industry, I had absolutely no idea that gene doping was being explored. While I think it is important to examine and strive to reach new levels in research and technology, I disagree with the concept of altering your genome for enhancement purposes. It is amazing to think that scientists have found ways to do this, but it becomes a slippery slope when trying to determine what is acceptable for athletes to pursue. Additionally, this type of advancement would certainly entice many people in the general public for mere "cosmetic" and asthetic purposes. The research thus far has shown the capacity to change the genome as a means of disease treatment. This particular utilization of genome alteration seems promising, as well as ethically and morally acceptable. It will be interesting to see the progress scientists make with gene doping and the way in which they choose to market this information to the general public in the future.

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  57. Jessica ThermitusApril 11, 2014 at 2:00 PM

    As many of my classmates have noticed. When it comes to fitness and altheticism genes are not the sole determinants of being fit.

    We have studied "[that] genetics...will never explain everything." (http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/16/is-fitness-all-in-the-genes/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0)

    This is to say that despite how "Exciting" (for whatever reason) the study's VAGUE findings suggest, they really don't matter.

    One thing that I was completely dumbfounded and slightly taken aback was that the study looked at cardiovascular/respiratory fitness as the definition for fitness. This is not conclusive of what exercise is. Strength training was not even considered...in trying to loose fat, muscle training goes a long way. To be so limited in that aspect made me reconsider the legitimacy of the study. Further, as some of my other classmates have mentioned there was no logging of dietary patterns at all...really? To not control for diet in a study means that the results were confounded. In this sense the entire validity and reliability of the study is not up to par for me to consider it as a serious study.

    There were also no definitive findings. To say that genes "may" have an impact on fitness is obvious. Genes "may" impact every aspect of our human lives. But to even hypothesize that they are determining factors is ridiculous.

    I think someone mentioned that if indeed fitness was directly related to genes (which it is not, epigenetic factors and behaviors are...) we might have a huge drop in motivation for maintaing optimal personal health. People may be discouraged and won't even try to keep healthy if they believe their genes are thwarting their hard work. I completely agree.

    These examples of limitations begs the question of how valid this study actually was. Surprising that the NYT published this study review with so much little useful data...

    In other regards, I learning about the idea of gene doping kind of scared me. Not because it has been seen to be beneficial since it hasn't been practiced yet, but the idea that competitors consider artificially enhancing their skill set is frightening. We shouldn't be using any genetic advances to enhance already healthy people...from a public health perspective we should be using our findings to serve the greater health of all. This means through therapeutic means not enhancing means. By enhancing the genes of already healthy individuals when the reproduce we'd have superhuman offspring. Potentially creating offspring with artificially enhanced genomes is like Huxley's brave new world becoming a reality. Not cool. Very scary.

    I found this weird youtube version of "Brave New World" in case anyone who hasn't read it wants to check it out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ek5vse2_Aq0#aid=P-owMzHJ188 I'm also sure they have a copy at mugar

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  58. I disagree with some of my classmates on this topic. There are definitely known epigenetic factors that influence physical fitness (diet, motivation etc.,) however, this should not undermine the influence of genetics. Assuming weight or diet plays more of a role in physical fitness than genetic factors is presumptuous and cannot be proven. As a result, I think it is important that studies such as this one continue to expose the function of exercise-related SNPs.

    The original study looks at VO2 max, the maximum rate of oxygen consumption, which is a universally accepted measure of cardiovascular fitness. High VO2 max measurements indicate high endurance capabilities in a person despite their body weight. The study found 39 SNPs associated with VO2 max levels. I found it interesting that the SNP associated with the strongest correlation to VO2 max levels, SNP rs6552828 (chromosome 4,) was located in an intron region (non-translatable,) since just a few years ago introns were labeled as "junk DNA" with no known functions.

    Some limitations of the study include the all white population. While the findings cannot be extrapolated to other populations, that simply means more studies need to be conducted. In fact, the study does note similar results studied in African American populations and the 15 most influential SNPs identified. Another limitation includes the lack of dietary history, but I think the authors excluded this information in order to simply look at genetic influences alone. Regardless, the subjects were all overweight. Lastly, as the discussion pointed out, more studies need to be conducted looking at these SNPs influence on populations of different age groups.

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  59. I think fitness is a combination of genetic and environmental factors like everything else we've studied so far. A SNP that's been associated with higher VO2 max levels, or a gene that is associated with increased skeletal muscle strength, is not helpful without proper nutrition, like iron which is necessary for your body to make hemoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen through your blood to your muscles) or proteins which are necessary to repair and build muscles. These genes may make it easier to become fit, but they're just one factor in a large equation. Training is another factor in determining fitness. Endurance training increases the capillary network supplying muscles with more oxygen and nutrients, and increases both the number and size of mitochondria in muscle tissue, making it easier to perform longer. Strength training increases the diameter of muscles fibers, the synthesis of actin and myosin, and increases the number and efficiency of the enzymes involved in the glycolysis pathway which converts glucose to energy. All of these factors are essential to fitness, and having the right genes just makes the effects of training and proper nutrition more efficient and beneficial. As the author said "genetics will never explain everything."

    The biggest limitations of this study that I noticed, along with my fellow classmates, were the small sample size of only 473 participants, the fact that they were all white, and that this is an association study, not causation. Also the study did not mention controlling for any confounding variables such as diet.

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  60. I think that fitness can be attributed to genetics however it cannot entirely be based on genome. For instance someone can have the physical or internal factors that make them capable to be an elite athlete. However, one has to apply themselves which involves purely mental strength. For instance, a guy can be tall with a healthy heart that has a high cardiac output. However that does not automatically make him an athlete. Fitness involves many factors including environmental factors such as diet, location, and culture.

    In class we mentioned that research studies don't account for the mental aspects that goes into fitness. I think that is a crucial factor which needs to be addressed. One has to have the mental strength to pursue anything. Like other students mentioned the limitation to the study is the participant size.

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  61. This is a very interesting concept. Often dieters or other fitness gurus will discuss how genetic markers do not dictate an outcome--for example, I was watching the British television show "Secret Eaters" that featured a family of four, all of which were obese. The show ran genetic tests on all the family members and found about three out of twelve possible genes that would make an individual predisposed to obesity. Interestingly enough, they also genetically tested the host of the show, who was about a size two, and she had eight out of twelve genetic markers! We've talked a lot in class about how these straight to consumer genetic tests aren't very reliable, but it did make me think. Overall fitness level I think is only partially reliant on genes, but I would say the number one factor is environment and health choices made by the individual.

    The small sample size and the limited variability is a huge determent to this study. For me, someone who has been successful in changing her fitness level simply by adjusting my mindset, I don't believe at all the genes plays a huge roll in obesity. In fact, I think we should be studying obesity and other behavioral health conditions primarily from an environmental / behavioral point of view, as often these are things we can positively impact as health professionals.

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  62. I believe without a question that fitness is a combination of factors and not just one single thing. While genes may play a large role in this process, they do not have control of how the person lives their life. It’s like being given the tools to build a house, but unless you pick up the hammer, nails, and wood, you just have a pile of stuff. Our body’s can come equipped with the ability to do very athletic things, but unless we train ourselves, we are not able to tap into these skills. Training and exercise help build a strong base that we can use for many sports and skills. Our bodies need fuel, so our diets are equally important to ensure our muscles are well powered. Another part of fitness that I believe is very important is our mental abilities. The best athletes are the best because they are not only physically strong, but mentally. This requires a completely different set of tools for training our brain to not only respond quickly and correctly, but to be able to withstand immense amounts of pressure. Fitness is so quickly judged by the physical appearance of a person, where I think we should be looking within as well to adequately access the level of fitness for a person.

    For the study in the article, there are a couple limitations that stand out to me. While this type of study is still new, more research should be done before we’re able to judge it’s validity. While the sample size is above 400, an even larger group of individuals would be very helpful to better access the results. It’s also very striking that there are only white participants in this study. This fact alone seems to lower it’s strength, at least to me. A more diverse group should be an easy target to accomplish, so why isn’t this being done?

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  63. I believe that fitness is based on a combined interaction of genetics and environmental factors including diet, exercise and lifestyle. With this study, even if there was a genetic code that could tell us how well and effectively we will be able to exercise, there is still so many other factors that could effect someone being "fit." If someone was told that they have a "fit" gene, this could turn someone into a couch potato. I understand checking genes for certain diseases but I dont really understand why someone would want to know about being fit. If i were given the opportunity to check my genes to see if I was fit, I would think it was a waste of my time. If i was asked however to see if I am susceptible for cancer or a disease I could pass on to my children, I think that would be more worth the testing. Also, exercising, no matter what your genes are, is important for every human so i dont understand what the results will be beneficial for.

    There were some limitations of the study. One was that they didn't look at all the SNPs, they could have missed a snippet that could have told them about exercise
    there was also a small sample size. 472 participants are not enough to determine a universal genome caused relationship, it was more of an association. Also the study did not control for certain factors such as environment and diet.

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  64. I certainly do not believe that fitness is solely based on one’s genome, even though the article suggested that some people benefited more from exercise than others based on their VO2 max (the capacity of the body to transport oxygen during exercise; or your endurance). I do however believe that genetics influences the body’s response to aerobic exercise and fitness, I just do not think that it is the sole factor at play. Many proponents go into fitness from eating the right diet, getting enough physical activity, hard work and dedication, training and motivation, getting enough sleep, and of course genetics (but your genes are only one part of the puzzle). I believe that your diet actually plays one of the biggest roles in physical fitness, as what you put into your body will reflect on the outside (be it through your skin, hair, nails, or your fitness level). There are many limitations to studies like this, and the one we were presented with certainly had a few, such as the small sample number that the study focused on and the all white population included which may not be so useful in comparing the results to a broader group of people. Studies like this can also sometimes be more harmful than helpful, as they may discourage readers from getting physical activity if they think that they may not get anywhere, as they do not come from an athletic family or they are not seeing immediate results at the gym. It is important to remember that exercise can reduce your risk for many diseases and no matter what age or background you come from, we can all benefit from getting a little bit of physical activity in our lives.

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  65. I believe that fitness is not purely based on one’s genome. Even though one’s genome may make being fit or experiencing the benefits of being fit more accessible for some more so than others, I do not think it is a finalizing factor in deciding whether someone can be fit or not. Like the article states, even if a gene demonstrates that certain individuals can develop higher oxygen intake levels than others, that does not mean that those who do not possess that gene are not capable of experiencing the various other benefits of exercising. That is also not to say that those individuals without the gene are forever incapable of reaching the same levels of oxygen intake as those with the gene. Maybe after a significantly longer training period, even those that showed no progress can eventually show signs of progress. What this study looked at was the effects exercise has on the body. That does not entirely correlate to who is capable of performing that exercise. We also mentioned in class that exercise is not only physical, but also mental. These genes cannot account for the mental state of those they are present or not present in. I do believe that environmental factor play somewhat of a role in determining one’s fitness.
    As the researcher pointed out, there are several genes that play a role in testing one fitness level. That also means there could be others that were not detected when running this study. There could also be other genes that supplement the absence of this gene in those without it, and thus those with this alternative gene could very well reach the same level of capability as those with the determined ACSL1 gene. There was also the note that when the same study was done on a subset of African Americans, the results did not match-up with those determined in the first study. The same genes were not determined to mark increased oxygen level intakes in different ethnic groups. Applicability to the general public is one limitation this study has. Things such as having such a the gap between those that show 19 or more of the determined SNPs being able to demonstrate the higher level of fitness and those that have 9 or fewer of the SNPs not being able to demonstrate that same level of fitness. 19 and 9 have a significant gap in between them-there is a significant marge in ambiguity in the study’s findings.

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  66. With everything that you have learned so far, do you believe fitness is purely based on one’s genome or is it a combined interaction of genetics and environmental factors (i.e. diet, workout routines, etc…)? Also, please comment on the potential limitations of the study outlined in this article.

    I disagree with anyone who says that fitness is purely determined by your genome and the 21 identified SNP's that associate with resistance or facilitated responses to training. Through this class I have learned that our genome might be our genetic code but it does not define us. Many other aspects of our anatomy help define us, our abilities, disease susceptibility and so on. So to say that our gene code defines how we will always respond to exercise is not something we should fully depend on. I am a student-athlete at the elite division 1 level and can tell you from the phenotype and experiential trials of my family that I most likely to do not possess any gene that tells me I am written to be good at exercise. My father lived many years being over weight and my mom has never been one to hit the gym or the weights very hard. Same goes for my sister who refuses to go for a run with me in fear that she will not be able sustain my distance or pace. I am curious as to what my ACSL1 gene pattern looks like because I feel my genetics do not reflect the ways in which I've grown to love and respond to exercise. A huge part of successful fitness also comes from mental toughness and other perseverance and positivity-related qualities. This surely has little to do with the genes associated to fitness by means of VO2 max capacities and innate desire to exercise.

    Limits to this study included a lack of diversity in the subject ethnicity. All families were white, representing is only a faction of the population which should not be assumed to stratify for all sets of people looking to benefit from this research information. Also, this is the FIRST genome wide association study to examine exercise traits in families. No conclusions should be relied on when only one study has proven to be successful in discovering something. Second, third and twentieth results must be done and supported to really draw results we can begin to apply in our strategies of approaching exercise and our posterity.

    One question I have: Is it possible to run these genome wide association studies with elite athletes? They are a completely different class of fitness compared to the general public but I'm thinking that maybe finding results in that category will provide intensified results. Could these intensified results outline general patterns and give research in more typical research pools a guideline to search by?





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  67. Considering everything I have learned so far, I believe fitness is not purely based an individual’s genome, because there are many other factors that play a major role in determining one’s fitness levels. Fitness is a combined interaction of one’s genetics and environmental factors, such as one’s diet and lifestyle choices. Before reading the article, “Is Fitness All in the Genes?” I knew that certain genes or variations of specific genes, when combined with environmental factors, can have an affect on whether or not a person is more or less susceptible to certain diseases or life outcomes; but I never considered one’s genes to have an affect on their fitness levels.

    The article states there have been several studies that have discovered specific genes and the impact they can have one an individual’s fitness. Having said this, these studies have many limitations that should be considered when deciding whether or not these specific genes have a detrimental or constructive impact on one’s fitness levels. Some limitations are that they only examined healthy Caucasian individuals to see if their genes had an impact on their levels of fitness, which prevents the study’s findings to be generalizable to other ethnic groups. This limitation of only testing white individuals can be appreciated when you look at the findings from Dr. Bouchard’s secondary study from a subset of African-American participants in the Heritage Study. His findings showed that only a few of the genetic variants played a role in African-American’s exercise response.

    Another limitation is that they did not consider the nutrition of the study subjects, such as their diet or other lifestyle choices. By the study not considering environmental factors, and only considering the subject’s genes, one can infer that fitness is not purely based an individual’s genome.

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