How to improve your fitness

From how to be more active in your daily life to optimising your training and diet plan for the best possible results, our team of experts are sharing their top tips to improve your fitness. Learn more about cardio and strength training, healthy nutrition and how your genes affect your response to diet and exercise.

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Improve your fitness with these simple tips

We all can be healthier and fitter than we are right now, but fitness is largely “goal-dependent”. Before you decide to start a new training regime, you should lay out a plan of short and long-term goals that you want to achieve over the course of a year, for instance.

These can be competing in a marathon or being able to lift your bodyweight in weights, it doesn’t matter, as what these goals are there for is to give you something to aim towards so that you don’t lose focus. 

In general, fitness is crucial for our health and everyone should be exercising at least once a day in some shape or form as the benefits heavily outweigh the difficulty that you may feel when building your fitness in the gym or outdoors.  

In this article we will cover the following topics:

  • How to be more active in your daily life
  • Fitness genes and genetically-matched training
  • What cardio is and how to do it
  • What strength training is and how to do it
  • The role that your diet plays

How to be more active in your daily life

A major problem for many people today is that we are stuck working in offices and have less time to be active during the day. The average person should be aiming for 150 minutes of aerobic activity such as brisk walking throughout the week, as well as performing muscle-strengthening activities such as weight training another 2 days, at least, during the week, according to the CDC.

This guideline also exists to show how important it is to stay active and work on strengthening your muscles rather than ‘letting yourself go’. In saying that, it is also wise to at least take a break of 10 minutes every 2 hours during a workday because during longer periods of sitting down your body is in a sedentary state.

Try some of the following to keep you active during the day:

  • Doing exercises at your desk
  • Taking a short walk outside (smokers shouldn’t be the only people allowed to break the cycle of sitting down)
  • Always remembering to take the stairs
  • Using a wearable device that tracks your activity and tells you to get up


Are there “fitness genes”? 

Currently, there are two main genes connected to fitness and athletic performance: ACE and ACTN3. There are other genes associated with power and endurance. However, these two are well-studied and reflect how genetics can be applied to personalise the training modalities of individual athletes after they’ve taken a DNA test.

There’s evidence that you can improve your athletic performance level if you train with your genes rather than against them. Thanks to advances in genetic science, we now know slight lifestyle changes can help us create a positive relationship between our environment and genetics, delivering optimum athletic performance.


What is ACE (Angiotensin-converting Enzyme)?

ACE is an enzyme which helps regulate your blood pressure and electrolyte balance. When it’s active, ACE causes blood vessel constriction and increases blood pressure. 

People with the II/ID ACE genotypes have more slow-twitch muscle fibres which are better suited to endurance-based training (low weight, high repetition). People with the DD genotype have more fast-twitch muscle fibres which are better suited to power training (high weight, low repetition).


What is ACTN3 (Alpha Actinin 3)?

ACTN 3 is associated with the major structural components of fast twitch fibres of skeletal muscles. It is only present in fast twitch muscle fibres. 

People with the CC genotype of ACTN 3 benefit from power-based training. People with the CT genotype benefit from power training, but less so than someone with the CC genotype. People with the TT genotype benefit from endurance-based training.

Even for a regular person just trying to get in shape, genetically matched training can deliver faster results and make it easier to reach your short-term goals, which in turn makes your long-term goals more realisable.


The benefits of genetically matched training

In terms of training to your genes, DNAFit have our own clinical study that is based on our Peak Performance Algorithm. This takes into account what your response to power and endurance training is and guides your exercise regime to be personalised.

For instance, if you respond better to power exercises, then you would do more sets with a higher weight and lower reps. However, if you would see more benefit from endurance training then you would do more reps with lower weights. Mixed responders fall somewhere in the middle and see benefit from both exercise modalities.  

By genetically-guiding your training you will see results more efficiently and effectively throughout your training and will reach your goals faster.


How to improve your cardiovascular fitness

Aerobic training or cardio is any workout that varies from low to high intensity while pumping oxygenated blood into the muscles. It stimulates your heart rate and increases your breathing and can be performed in a number of ways including running, swimming, cycling, spinning, and rowing.

Your body composition will obviously vary depending on the cardio work out that you choose to do. For instance, long distance runners are often slender with little to no muscle or body fat, while sprinters are bulkier and more muscular. The same goes for swimmers who normally have what is determined as an ideal physique with broad shoulder and a strong upper body, as well as a toned lower body. Cyclists find that their legs do most of the work and although they are slender, their legs are built for power.

There is no one physique that defines a person who does cardio workouts because it is critically dependent on the exercise performed or sport you compete in. 

Cardio exercises have long been considered as necessary for people who want to lose weight: 

A 2012 study of 234 overweight and obese adults performed at Duke University found that the equivalent of 12 miles of walking or running per week was highly effective in reducing subjects' body fat, compared to resistance training without cardio.

Clearly, results will vary depending on if you run, swim, or cycle but all are effective forms of weight loss. The trick, however, comes in to play with how you go about doing such exercises. 

Cardio is also associated with muscle loss, as well as fat loss, which may not be attractive to people who want to maintain a powerful physique, while also cutting excess weight. Yes, many people exercise because they want to lose weight, but this isn’t an issue for a lot of people who are already exercising. A lot of people want to do exercises that will build muscle and get them washboard abs.

A way to build muscle is to do HIIT. A HIIT workout requires you to alternate between exercises at a low intensity and a high intensity. And it is less likely to reduce muscle mass because it is similar to strength training. An example of how to do this is to jog lightly on a treadmill for 30 seconds and then spring full out for a minute and continue this for 10 minutes. The same can be applied to all cardio disciplines.  

Body composition training and strength training are not enemies, especially not in the long term. But even in the short term, strength training makes sense; otherwise, the body reaches a plateau all too soon. You need to keep pushing your body to the next level because continuing to train the same way forever is not conducive to you reaching your goals and going further.


How to improve muscular strength and endurance 

Strength training is any exercise performed with some level of resistance whereby muscles contract and strength, anaerobic endurance, and the size of skeletal muscles are built. 

It is commonly viewed as exercise that makes use of weights, but it can also be done using a person’s own bodyweight. In saying this, the way your body will be composed will be determined by the type of strength training that you do.

For instance, someone who does calisthenics will have a very different physique from someone who trains to be a bodybuilder. The person doing calisthenics will have a much more “toned” physique and will have strength evenly balanced throughout their entire body, while a bodybuilder will have much larger muscles but you may find that their body will be shaped according to which muscles they focus on the most – we all know the importance of not skipping leg day but bodybuilders will still normally find that they have a bigger upper body.

A number of studies have shown how beneficial strength and resistance training is for weight loss and preventing negative changes in body composition. Even at a low intensity, resistance training is effective in increasing muscle mass and strength and reducing total fat mass without change of insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetic patients.

Another study  is focused on your goals and states that if increasing muscle mass and strength is the goal, a program including resistance training is required. However, balancing time commitments against health benefits accrued, it appears that aerobic training alone is the optimal mode of exercise for reducing fat mass and total body mass.

Some people want to have that ripped, big physique and do appropriate strength exercises such as power lifting to achieve them, while others want to be lean and toned but not too big. It all comes down to what you want to achieve and how you go about achieving it. Focusing your training plan according to building a physique that you will be pleased with is crucial.  

To avoid a plateau, you should always do a combination of strength training exercises that allow you to change up your routine and keep your body guessing.


The best diet for fitness training 

If you want to get lean and get in shape, it means shedding all that excess body fat. Now, you may think that exercise plays a big role in your transformation but apart from building muscle, it wouldn’t be anything without diet.

You first need to revolutionize the way that you eat if you want to get serious about your goals and see results. Nearly 80% of losing weight and building muscle comes down to how you eat and what you eat, and once you’ve got that down then the work you’re putting in in the gym will pay dividends. 

What the DNAFit DNA test offers you, is insight into your ideal diet type

Based on you DNA test results, you'll be prescribed one of the following diet plans:

By understanding which diet is the best for you, you will gain an advantage towards not only losing weight but knowing what foods you need to be eating in order to bulk up or tone your body.

How to adjust the way you eat

  • If your goal in the beginning is to lose weight then you need to burn more calories than you eat, once you’re happy you,
  • Up your calorie intake – that doesn’t mean overeat, but it does mean that getting lean relies on you eating enough to replace what’s being lost when you train. By focusing on healthy food you won’t gain unhealthy weight, rather you’ll be sculpting your toned physique, but how?
  • Eat more protein and fats – protein is your friend when it comes to building muscle and you need to ensure you’re eating lean meats, fish, and chickpeas and quinoa for the vegetarians, but,
  • Eat less carbs by this we mean refined carbs such as white breads and pastas and sugary treats while upping your healthy carb intake, these are your vegetables and wholegrains!
  • And, always remember to drink less alcohol and fizzy drinks if you really want to get into shape and have that body you desire!

Overall, improving your fitness means taking a variety of factors into account. You should focus on combining your strength training and cardio with a healthy eating plan, all of which are genetically-guided, for the best results. It will take time, but once you build your fitness up it will get to the point where it is not only second nature, but an important aspect of who you are.

Get the most out of your gym sessions. Download our eBook, Optimising Your Gym Workoutfor some easily-actionable advice to maximise your results when training.

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