Most of us have always assumed that our DNA is something we inherit from our parents and accept as being out of our control. When we refer to someone as being “big-boned,” we use the blanket assessment that a bodily condition is solely due to genetics. The same goes for nearly anything related to someone’s body that seems intractable – something that people like to chalk up to being born that way. DNA has thus become the catchall for those things that we simply cannot change. It is the immovable barrier that separates us from our enviably fit friend who looks great, never seems to indulge, subsists on six hours of sleep and has an unwaveringly positive attitude no matter what happens. But here’s the thing: it’s not nearly as out of our control as we’ve long believed. In fact, we can actively change which parts of our DNA are actually expressed.
Epigenetics, a field of study specializing in understanding how DNA works, is still nascent. The idea, though, at a basic level, is that our bodies are activating (and deactivating) our DNA on a regular basis. DNA is like our genetic code and, just like a computer code, it can be utilized in many different ways. So while we may not actually be able to change the underlying code itself we can change how the code functions – just like we would do with a computer program.
One way to hack your DNA is through diet. A healthy diet, consisting of plenty of amino acids, antioxidants, and B complex vitamins can have a direct impact on the amount of methylation that takes place. Methylation is the process by which you can basically encourage or repress certain parts of DNA by essentially “turning on or off” certain parts of the underlying code.
A second way to hack your DNA is through exercise, although research on how exercise can influence the expression of DNA is still in its infancy. However, early studies suggest that high-intensity exercise, even when performed for short periods of time, can impact methylation. Again, while this isn’t actually changing the underlying DNA, it is impacting how it is interpreted and used.
So what does this ultimately mean to you? The next time someone uses that time-worn excuse of “it’s just my genetics” as a reason for not achieving one’s goals, you’ll know that the argument no longer holds water. While we may all be predisposed toward certain things, we nonetheless have a significant degree of control over how our DNA expresses itself, both through what we eat and how we exercise. Powerfully, these changes we can make affect how our bodies interpret the underlying genetic codes that are passed on to our children. So we’re not only hacking our own DNA but that of future generations, as well. If that isn’t a worthwhile investment, then we don’t know what is.
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