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Body-mind connection in running – Genes for aerobic fitness

Baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra once baseball was 90 percent mental (well, and the other half was physical).

This same importance also extends to running. There is no doubt a ton of training in both sports, but if you visualize something and tell yourself you can achieve it, that mentality will take you a long way. And now, new research from Stanford University confirms it.

In a study published in the journal Human Nature Behviour, the researchers tested for variations in the CREB1 genes – which affect exercise capacity – in 116 participants. Next, participants performed a maximum stress treadmill test, which measured how quickly they cleared toxic carbon dioxide (CO2) build-up from their blood, as well as their lung capacity. The researchers did not tell the participants anything about their CREB1 genes.

A week later, participants returned and read an individual genetic test report created especially for them, as well as a leaflet explaining the effects of CREB1 gene variants on exercise ability, endurance, difficulty in the exercise and the warmth they feel. feel when exercising.

The trap ? Even though the researchers knew the participants’ actual gene status, they randomly assigned each person a high genetic risk for low exercise capacity or a low genetic risk (meaning they can tolerate a lot of exercise). .

Then they asked the participants to perform the same treadmill test they had done a week before, but this time they “experienced” their endurance capacity.

“We did this because we wanted to know what the real the effect of people’s actual genetic risk on exercise capacity, but also to measure the effect of the genetic risk alone perceived by people, ”said lead author Brad Turnwald, Ph.D. (c) The runner’s world.

The results were clear: compared to their results on the first treadmill test, people who were told they had a variant of the gene linked to poor exercise capacity were less efficient at removing CO2 from their blood. , their lung capacity decreased by 2 liters of air per minute. , and they stopped running 22 seconds earlier.

But those who thought they had the high endurance form of CREB1 ran 47 seconds longer than in the previous test. They also went 67 seconds longer before indicating they were hot from their previous treadmill test.

While it is true that one of the variants of CREB1 is associated with lower aerobic exercise capacity – people with this variant made tend to perform worse than those who did not – “the effects of perceived genetic risk” were, in some cases, more important than the actual effects of the gene on participants.

So what exactly is the connection between your mind and your body? Thinking that you have a genetic risk for something, according to Turnwald, shapes what you choose to pay attention to and how you interpret the information.

“Information about genetic risks can be particularly effective in shaping psychological and physiological performance outcomes, as people tend to assume that genes are very predictive of an outcome and downplay the importance of their own behavior,” he said. he declared.

In other words, just thinking that you have the variant of the CREB1 gene which is responsible for poor endurance can cause you to think about how difficult your training is and how tired you are every time you exercise. ‘exercise.

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“Because our psychological processes, including mindsets, expectations and beliefs, interact with our physiological body systems, this new state of mind can fundamentally transform our experience and the way our bodies operate in situations where we let’s think about our genetic risk, ”said Turnwald. noted.

Bottom line: While it’s likely that you don’t know your own CREB1 gene status, even thinking you’re predisposed to poor physical shape, say, you’ve always struggled to keep up with your running buddies, or you come from a poorly athletic family -may cause your performance to drop.

So focus less on your potential genetic makeup and more on what you can do to strengthen your own fitness. The are some strategies you can try to improve your mindset and performance. Doing things like repeating mantras or breaking your training down into smaller, achievable goals (rather than one huge thing you have to conquer) can help. Keep in mind that everyone is different, so find what works for you.

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