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Otautahi – Although everyone can benefit from exercise, the links between physical activity and overall health are not fully understood which is why, until now, the same exercise has different effects on different people.

Now a study published in Nature Metabolism led by science researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre (BIDMC) provides insights related to these unanswered questions. The centre is a world-class teaching hospital attached to Harvard Medical School in Boston, US.

The research results could be helpful for determining the specific types of exercise most likely to benefit a particular individual and for identifying new therapeutic targets for diseases related to metabolism.

While groups as a whole benefit from exercise, the variability in responses between any two individuals undergoing the very same exercise is actually quite striking.

Some may experience improved endurance while others will see improved blood sugar levels.

The researchers measured the blood levels of about 5000 proteins in 650 sedentary adults before and after a 20-week endurance exercise programme.

A set of 147 proteins in the blood indicated an individual’s cardiorespiratory fitness at the start of the study. Another set of 102 proteins indicated an individual’s change following the completion of the 20-week programme.

They identified proteins that emanated from bone, muscle, and blood vessels that were strongly related to cardiorespiratory fitness and had never been previously associated with exercise training responses.

The research team developed a protein score that improved their ability to predict an individual’s trainability. It identified individuals who were unable to significantly improve their cardiorespiratory fitness despite participating in the standard exercise programme.

In a separate community-based study, though part of the same paper, the scientists found that some of the proteins were linked to an elevated risk of early death, highlighting the link between cardiorespiratory fitness and long-term health outcomes.

They now have a detailed list of new blood compounds that further inform their understanding of the biology of fitness and exercise adaptation and predict individual responses to a given exercise regimen.

The study has helped create a roadmap to further explore potential interventions and provides an important step in individualising exercise as a therapy.