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Becoming a Marathoner Could be Linked to Genes

Update Date: Apr 15, 2013 11:40 AM EDT

Participating in long distance runs and marathons is not for everyone. According to a new study, researchers believe that becoming a marathoner might have a lot to do with one's genetic makeup. Like previous studies that found a link between genetics and laziness, there might be a more biological reason as to why some people simply cannot run long distances, while others appear to do it with ease. This recent study found 30 genes that could be linked to the ability of performing high intensity and high stamina training.

The lead researcher of the study, Professor Jamie Timmons, who is the head of systems biology at Loughborough University in England, created a DNA test that could measure the individuals' types of genes and separate them into different levels of exercise groups. The DNA genetic test, which they called XRPredict+ involves analyzing the 30 genes that contribute to withstanding stamina. The test studies the genes that are responsible for remodeling muscle fibers, which allow the small blood vessels to grow and help transport oxygen to the muscles during physical activity.

"From our work we know that 20 percent of people do not respond at all to training and in fact can get worse. They push themselves as hard as everyone else, but their muscles do not extract that same amount of oxygen," Timmons explained. "It is plausible that by pushing it through training they get a maladaptation. What is clear is that there is no one recipe that fits all."

The researchers stated that one in five people would not become long distance runners due to their genes. These people do not have the genetic makeup designed for intense cardio workouts and thus, their bodies inefficiently distribute oxygen, which can have a negative impact on muscle growth and performance levels.

"These low aerobic responders would be better going to the gym to build up their strength and muscle tissue for taking up other competitive sports like martial arts or strength related sports," he suggested.

The London Marathon will start next week and has already accepted 48,323 participants with an estimation of 36,000 runners that will finish the race. In last year's marathon, 600 people could not finish. This study provides insight as to why certain runners last while others are forced to stop running. The researchers believe that this test could help people who might be trying to run marathons after months of training and do not see improvement to try something else. 

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