I am sure that you have probably realized that some individuals are really good at sports, that these people have real stamina, take the initiative with gusto, enjoy being highly competitive and just appear to be born athletes. Many others just avoid sport like the plague, they find it exhausts them physically and they often just cannot muster the will to put on their trainers and get moving. Believe it or not, the reason why some people are more adept at sports than others and perhaps become top athletes could be genetic.
Everything is encoded in your genes: your height, your eye color, your ability to memorize stuff, your genetic predisposition to certain diseases and the list goes on and on. Genetics are even responsible for how quickly you build muscle and how developed your physical strength is and by extension, your stamina. Your genes even determine how efficiently your body can form proteins and transport oxygen.
All this said, we cannot exclude the huge impact of lifestyle and how our lifestyle choices also play a role in how sporty or lazy we actually are; how tired or energetic we feel and much more. A smoker will obviously have far less stamina than a non smoker and someone who is overweight will likely find themselves hampered when undertaking certain “sporty” activities which someone fitter will have no problems doing. Training and commitment are also undoubtedly important factors.
People may well carry the sporty genes but never take a liking to sports or carry out any sport in particular. There may also be people who do very well at sports even though they may not have the genes that make people “sporty”.
The ATCN-3 gene
The ATCN-3 gene is believed to be the gene which enables the body to synthesize a protein which makes it possible for muscles to work more efficiently and quickly thus, making the person carrying these genes more apt at indulging in sports which require speed and exertion. Another sporty gene is the ACE (Angiotensin converting enzyme) gene. This gene, which encodes an enzyme, plays an important role in blood circulation, it is in fact, partly responsible for the circulation of blood through our bodies and helps to regulate blood pressure. Both the ATCN-3 gene and the ACE gene have been linked to improved athletic performance. Studies have however, also shown that some top athletes, do not have these genes associated with sportiness – this clearly attests to the importance of determination and the body’s ability to develop muscle and stamina even without these genes. So yes, genes do play an important role in becoming a top athlete and do place people with these genes at an advantage. However, we cannot exclude that other external factors come into play. Moreover, a person with the ATCN-3 gene or the ACE gene may never have the genes activated, remaining an average person who generally avoids anything more strenuous than a walk with friends.
This is in much the same line of thought as genetic health testing. Carrying the genes that cause cancer, Alzheimer’s or a range of other genetically linked diseases does not in any way mean that the carrier will one day be affected by the illness. The genes may never be activated – something which science has not as yet managed to explain satisfactorily. Not to mention, the role our lifestyle plays.
Some DNA testing companies have made tests available which can tell an individual whether or not they carry a sporty gene. Some coaches have even suggested that players in national teams should be tested to be able to stream the best ones based upon both genetics and objective performance. Further to this, some DNA testing companies are marketing the test for parents who can purchase this test for their kids to see whether they have the potential for becoming top athletes. This could be a wrong approach as parents might push their kids to do something they may not necessarily enjoy. A coach or parent with this information in hand may get overly keen to push the kid to the limit of their potential, perhaps leading to physical injuries or emotional problems with the child.
The fact that scientists are studying sporty genes and genes that make people more active should not be your excuse for adopting a fatalistic philosophy and take to the sofa, convincing yourself that sports are just not for you as it is “not in my genes”.
Mark Sanford is an alternative therapist specializing in alternative health remedies. The author works as a full time writer for a local newspaper. Mark Currently lives in Lancashire with his wife. More articles by the author can be found at http://www.easydna.co.uk/dnanews.php