Why Do Some People Get Fitter Faster Than Others?

When I was in my twenties and thirties, it didn’t take much for my arms and shoulders to get very defined after only a few workouts. In fact, I used to joke that all I had to do was look at a weight and I’d get cut! Well, those days are unfortunately gone (dangit!), and I have to spend a lot more time weight training as well as manage the calories I take in much more than I used to, but boy was that a fun period of my life!

I was what exercise scientists refer to as a “fast responder.” They’ve known for years that how quickly someone responds to exercise is a function of their genetics.

More recent studies have actually determined which genes are responsible for whether someone responds to certain exercises or not. This NY Times article describes the results of that study.

(Dr. Wislof) also pointed out that the interplay of genes and exercise is extremely complex, and scientists are only in the earliest stages of understanding the effects of heredity, environment, nutrition and even psychology in affecting different people’s responses to exercise.

But the potential lesson of the new study would seem to be, he said, that we should closely monitor our body’s response to exercise. If after months of training, someone is not able to run any farther than he or she could before, maybe it is time to change the intensity or frequency of the workouts or try something else, like weight training. The genes that control the body’s responses to that activity are likely to be very different than those involved in responses to aerobic exercise, Dr. Wisloff said.

How can instructors and trainers use this information?

Most instructors understand the importance of adding variety to one’s exercise program, but this study shows that it is even more important. Make sure you are not always teaching the same type of profile all the time, such as all high-intensity intervals. Also, recommend your riders switch up their training, so they add weight training, Pilates, or other modalities of exercise to their cycling class schedule. You shouldn’t lose your riders if you do this; rather, I believe you will be more likely to keep your riders longer, because their variety will ensure that they benefit the most from their exercise.

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