A New Exercise Gimmick Claims Your DNA Determines Your Workout

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We know that exercise is good for us, but, most of us don't do it. Only about 20% of Americans get the recommended amount of exercise. (1)

There are a lot of reasons why we don't work out. We are busy. Gyms and classes can be expensive. We don't appreciate its value and are not motivated. It is (at best) slightly uncomfortable to downright painful. And, for most people, it's not fun. 

All of these reasons work together to create a multitude of exercise fads.... all aiming to make exercise easier, faster, less painful, more fun - less exercise-y. 

And, the newest fad is trying to do just that, by making your workout more interesting and personal by incorporating your own DNA sequence as an integral player in your diet and workout regimen.  

Jeremy White, writing for Wired magazine, recently brought attention to this new kind of bootcamp, having participated in the bootcamp 38ºN (named for the coordinates of its location in Ibiza, Spain.) In the weeks leading up to a trip to 38ºN, you need to send a cheek swab (to get cells) off to the DNA sequencing company DNAFit. They will then send your profile to the trainers at 38ºN so that your diet and exercise regimen can be tailored specifically to you. 

Now, I like working out and I can guarantee that I would love a week in Ibiza. So - this bootcamp sounds pretty amazing. But, how is knowing my DNA sequence going to improve my workout? 

The short answer is that it is not. At least, not yet. In order to actually implement genetic based tailoring of an exercise regimen, we would need to have a very complex understanding of how your genes influence metabolism, muscle development, Oxygen utilization, etc. And, our genetic understanding of these processes is simply not there yet. Also, there is not a scientist on the island, judging from the expertise of the team at 38ºN, leading us to question the genetic training of people who specialize in fitness, yoga, acupuncture, mindfulness, making smoothies and looking amazing in a bikini on the beach while doing it. 

The idea is that, by understanding certain genetic components that you may or may not have, the exercise and diet that is prescribed to you will be catered to your body as specifically as possible, yielding the best results from the experience. They go so far as to say that they will "look at injury risk and recovery and training frequency, based on your results." 

The idea that a bootcamp could use your genetic information to do any of this is simply irrational. 

The website states (or sells) it much better in these words:

"Our DNA:Fitness Long Weekend Retreat is a rare opportunity for you to understand your body. Why it responds well in some areas and not in others. What your predisposed strengths are based on your DNA. And where you should focus your energy to get maximum results. It provides clarity, a-ha moments and insights that will ultimately set you on the path to uncovering your fullest potential. All because some very clever person has proven that when you train and eat in line with your genetics, you’ll gain three times the results than if you were to work against them. Its cleverness therefore, makes DNA:Fitness our most bespoke, immersive and cutting edge client experience."

Not surprisingly, the price tag for such an "immersive and cutting edge" four days is not cheap (I wonder if your DNA sequence tells them how rich you are, too?) The 3 nights and 4 days can cost up to $4500 - that's $1500 a night. (If you are willing to have a roommate, you can go budget for roughly $1000/night.)  

Mr. White states that he was "prescribed a low-carb diet with extra vegetables, with the strong advice that oily fish should more often than not take precedence over a nice, juicy steak." 

Well, that advice was worth every penny.


(1) 51.6% of U.S. adults met the aerobic guideline alone, and 29.3% met the muscle-strengthening guideline alone, painting a slightly less bleak picture.