Born to Run is in Your Genes

May 27th, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I just read an article in one of the weekend New York Times magazines on a study done with identical twins to see if exercising is genetic. The age old question being “Are some of us born with a desire to exercise?” Of course, their conclusion was “yes”. Although it’s a thought provoking research question, I hope those people stuck in neutral don’t use this finding as another official excuse not to get moving. “I really can’t make it to the gym because my DNA tell me so.” Time!!

On March 22 and April 14 I wrote about re-defining the meaning of exercise and the need for starting a “movement movement”, just to get people thinking about moving more, with the April 16 post giving an example of a household activity doubling for exercise. It would be super if we continued to find ways to burn extra calories. In fact we must!!

I spent a good part of the past weekend gardening. You know the spring thrust – preparing the beds, finding the plants and putting them in the ground. My muscles gave me a clear indication that I certainly exercised. In actuality, those screaming muscles might have really been those which haven’t been used much lately. My reality check.

I think it’s absurd to blame whether you have a propensity for exercising or not on your genetics. Many of life’s simple inventions over the past decades have made our daily lives oh so convenient. If you can do what Marty McFly did and go Back to the Future and compared energy use now compared to years ago (excluding exercise) I’m sure you’d see a significant difference.  Ok, off the top of my head, let’s take stock of a few of these calorie saving conveniences:

  • Electric garage door opener – I remember our squeaky door you’d have to get out of the car to open. This used to tip my sisters and me off that our parents were home, reminding us to go do what we were supposed to be doing….
  • Television channel changer – remember getting off your duff and turning the nob??
  • Dishwasher – growing up my Dad would say he had 4 dishwashers – my sisters and me (yes, the four gnomes in the photo)!!
  • Cleaners for your oven, floor, bathtub and cleaning services – remember using elbow grease to make something sparkling clean??
  • Portable telephones – do you remember having to move to the ringing phone attached to the wall, how gauche?
  • Electric carving knife – you see my Dad is using one you move back and forth to remove meat off a turkey, very novel!

There are numerous examples. The bottom line is how many calories these inventions now save. Perhaps 50 calories/day here, 25 calories/day there, another 66 calories/day somewhere else. Suddenly poof, your routine dictates using much fewer calories over time than before. We’re not even talking about exercise here, just a bit of caloric economy. I remember the various times when my job changed from working at a large campus hospital where I’d walk from place to place throughout the day to my current job situated in a small office, leaving me sitting at my computer for most of the day. I really felt the change in my jeans and couldn’t blame the new found snugness “on the cleaners shrinking them”!! I needed to revamp my eating and activity level to just maintain my weight. The bottom line is all of these calorie saving conveniences could end up in pounds gained if we don’t make a concerted effort to lower intake or push up usage.

Now, compare your general energy usage to your parents generation, your grandparents and even further past. Your parents story of walking six miles to and from school, uphill both ways wasn’t a total exaggeration. My Grandma used to prepare meals daily from scratch for a house full of 14 people. That didn’t include all of the other chores on her list. There we no spa days back then, were there Gram?

All these ingenious inventions are certainly convenient, but oh so obesogenic. Now we need these ingenious inventors to create things to help us use more energy, like the Wii Exercise game. I’m starting to have one of my Emperor’s New Clothes moments. The next thing we’ll be doing is booking a get away to the latest ranch to learn how to cook from scratch. Oh ya, they already exist!! Clearly something has snapped. Our bodies were built to put in a diligent’s days work requiring many activities despite what our genetic code reads.

The movie Wall-e might seem like a stretch and fantasy, but somehow I’m not so sure.

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