WSU Applebaum professors Malek, Burghardt shed new light on epigenetic response of exercise in athletic v. sedentary men

Kyle Burghardt and Moh Malek
Kyle Burghardt (left) and Moh H. Malek

Exercise doesn’t just strengthen your muscles; it remodels your cells on a genetic level. But – until now – epigenetic changes that result from acute resistance exercise have been poorly understood, especially in people who regularly exercise.

A new interdisciplinary research team including WSU Applebaum professors Kyle Burghardt (Pharmacy Practice) and Moh H. Malek (Physical Therapy) along with colleagues in the Department of Kinesiology at the California State University Fullerton recently discovered that an individual’s training experience has a direct impact on one such epigenetic change stemming from resistance exercise – DNA methylation, a process that influences gene expression and regulates skeletal muscle adaptation.

In their prospective study, the team had trained and sedentary men perform a single resistance training session. Specifically, subjects performed three sets of 10 leg presses and leg extensions at 70% of their one-repetition maximum weight. Biopsies were done before, 30 minutes after and 4 hours after the acute resistance training session. The objective was to compare epigenetic changes to metabolic and inflammatory markers as well as genes associated with muscle hypertrophy.

“Essentially, what we found is that the same exercise intensity has different ­– and sometimes opposite – effects on trained versus sedentary men at the molecular level,” Malek said. “Our findings have practical application for rehabilitation settings where patients are presented with varying habitual exercise histories.”

The impact of the team’s findings underpins the need for differential training stimuli based on each individual’s training background.

“A study like this may suggest that in the future we can tailor and monitor the efficacy of training by analyzing an individual’s epigenetic profile over time,” Burghardt said.

The team’s research will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.

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