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Exercise for Methylation Changes

Exercise can lead to changes in people's overall health and risk of disease, the New York Times Well blog writes, but the mechanism through which those changes arise are not quite clear. "Several striking new studies, however, provide some clarity by showing that exercise seems able to drastically alter how genes operate," Gretchen Reynolds says in the Times.

She points to a June PLOS One study from a group of Swedish researchers that examined the effect of six months of exercise on genome-wide DNA methylation patterns. The researchers reported that they found 39 candidate genes for obesity and type 2 diabetes that had differential DNA methylation in human adipose tissue after exercise.

A separate study in Cell Metabolism, Reynolds notes, indicates that even one workout can affect DNA methylation in muscle cells.

"Of course, the intricacies of that bogglingly complex process have yet to be fully teased out," she adds. "Scientists do not know, for instance, whether exercise-induced methylation changes linger if someone becomes sedentary, or if resistance training has similar effects on the behavior of genes."