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What you Need to Know Before Taking a DNA Fitness Test

Since the rise of consumer genetic testing, people getting DNA tests do it for two reasons.

One, tracing their ancestry and discovering unknown family members. Two, finding out if they are at risk of any genetic diseases.

Many people also do it for both reasons.

But the utility of DNA tests has gone beyond ancestry and health testing. Startups and companies have now introduced new forms of testing that they promise will helps us discover even more about ourselves.

One new area of testing that has gotten popular is DNA fitness testing.

The premise is simple: take a DNA test to find out how your fitness is related to your genes.

By tailoring your workouts and training to your genetic profile, your exercises will be more effective, and you’ll reduce your risk of injuries.

Some of the companies offering this type of testing include DNAFit, Fitness Genes, and Athletigene.


Wait, Don’t Order the Test Yet

DNA Fitness Test

The promises of these tests are promising, but don’t rush to send your spit for testing or upload your raw DNA data for analysis.

The most important thing you need to know before you get a DNA fitness test is that the science behind it is mostly unproven.

Now, the testing process itself is not in question. Even as DNA testing has gotten cheaper, it has become more accurate thanks to technology.

One of the biggest names behind DNA fitness tests, Helix, uses a more a better and more advanced genome sequencing technique compared to most DNA testing companies.

The problem is in how these companies interpret the data.

Health and ancestry DNA tests are based on decades of research and huge databases. Fitness DNA tests? Not so much.

Yes, some studies have looked into the link between genetics and fitness. But experts say that most of these companies overstretch the truth and often misinterpret the results from the studies.


A Complicated Puzzle

DNA fitness test

What most of these companies won’t admit – at least beyond fine print – is that the results you get are just a small part of a much bigger puzzle.

Yes, it’s true that there are genes that are associated with long-distance runners, and others are linked to sprinters. Some genes are associated with better oxygen intake, which improves endurance. Others are linked to a higher risk of injury.

But scientists have no idea how these few known genes interact with the thousands of other genes that have not been thoroughly studied or even discovered.

So simply because you have a gene for fast-twitch muscles, which are ideal for sprints, it doesn’t mean you match Bolt’s 100m record or even come close.

The bottom line is this: we know little about how different genes affect fitness. Add in environmental, physiological, and dietary factors, and it’s impossible to predict someone’s fitness profile from just DNA.

The recommendations you get in your test report don’t guarantee that you’ll be a better athlete.


Not Completely Useless

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That said, DNA fitness testing is not entirely useless. It can at least give you a rough – a very rough – idea of your body’s fitness.

It can improve your workouts and training in small ways. But don’t expect miracles. That’s because your DNA is only a small part of your fitness.

If you are going to get a DNA fitness test, genetic experts recommend going over the results with a pro. It can be a geneticist, a physio, or a sports expert.

They’ll help you weed out the useless bits that you probably knew about yourself anyway from potentially helpful insights.

While you are at it, you may also want to get a health DNA test.

It’ll tell you if you are at risk of any diseases that might affect (or already affecting) your fitness. 23andMe, the best DNA test for health, will also explain why you have certain physical traits.


 

About the Author Charles M.

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