Fit, Nature or Nurture?
Fit, By Hook Or Crook? You may not be naturally fit, because natural fit doesn’t exist.
Getting fit may be more like a scientific theory than a fashion craze.Rossella Pruneti
By Rossella Pruneti
Has it already happened to you to attend a college reunion and catch up with longtime classmates? If it has, did you notice that the nice blonde minute girl sitting next to your school desk has supersized herself into Miss Piggy? And that the chubby guy always grazing treats is now a hunk?
I call that “the College Reunion Effect”.
If you look at people within time intervals enough long, you may make an astounding discovery – nobody physically remains as it is when young. As you are about to exclaim that it is nothing new, wait. I am not talking about usual aging. I mean that nobody is naturally fit or unfit – things may change. Why? Because your attitude changes.
Does it always happen that obese children tend to become obese adults? Or would you think it is less common that a slim boy is a sedentary, fat adult? The question is not if genetic is a determinant, when, and how much. We don’t question the interplay of genetic and environment anymore. What I suggest is that genetic is manipulated by our mind and any mindshift you can experience.
What I suggest is that genetic is manipulated by our mind and any mindshift you can experience.
The College Reunion Effect may be assessed in many ways and also explained in a lot of ways. Some genetic traits manifest later in life. The fact is, some genetic traits can or cannot manifest later in life. How do they fire up or stay dormant then?
Well, your environment is the spark. Don’t limit the meaning of “environment” to your school, religious community, family, city, country, subculture – if any – and culture. Your environment is first and foremost your mind attitude. It is through a mindshift – if applicable, or maintaining your successful attitude just letting it shift as much as it needs to still target the goal – that you can be fit, independently of your bad or good gene make-up.
Maybe the minute blonde got married, had a baby, and fell victim of the stereotype that women cannot stay fit after pregnancy. On the contrary, the obese schoolmate got hurt by his problem, understood that his self-image was very different, found some good coaches, and persistently worked out till he realized his idea of a fit body.
Can you see what was the strongest force underlying both cases? It was what they thought. You may not have the power to control our genes, but you have the power to control your thoughts and experience relevant mindshifts.
You may not have the power to control our genes, but you have the power to control your thoughts and experience relevant mindshifts.
Is Fitness Genetic?
Until recently, most scientists had held a strong conviction that you cannot change your genetic predispositions like being fat – and I consider a healthy body composition as a component of fitness.
While research like the Heritage family study (Bouchard, 1991) do confirm that a person’s capacity to get more fit (in that study it was researched the cardiovascular capacity) is set by genetic heredity, science never said it
is all set by it.
On the contrary, the new Biology shows that although genes are fundamental, our environment also means a lot. The Biology dogma that genes determine anything is not standing any more:
“The traditional argument of nature versus nurture is no longer relevant, as it has been clearly established that both are important factors in the road to becoming an elite athlete”. (Yan et al., 2016).
Did you buy the story that fitness is genetically determined?
Well, if it is, why are you subscribing that membership to the gym? After all, you too think that the truth may be different. You may not be
naturally fit, because natural fit doesn’t exist. Indeed, you can get “mindfully fit”. Science points it out too:
“Genetics can be attributed to about 50-60% of the difference between your skills and someone else’s. The other 40-50% comes down to environmental factors like training, diet, and lifestyle habits (i.e. sleep).”
People were even brought to think that they are in a certain way because they are born like that or have a talent or a natural gift for being fit.
Most of what you are is just a habit, and nobody is born with a habit!
You are raised in a certain habitual way, and you can always change it. I’d rather say that you cannot change it but you can overwrite them thanks to a persistent, mindful practice.
Nurture can inform nature.
If you really understand this, you’ll learn a disruptive position against the fitness industry. Plus, you’ll break out free of stupid marketing and the slavery of not being like you would like to be.
Is fitness the result of interplay between environmental and genetic factors? You may bet. Indeed, you better bet on this position, because the key is just your thinking and the new questions raised will be how to learn, unlearn, and relearn better. You won’t be sold anymore to the idea that your fitness is a bank deposit at your birth and it is slowing going down. You can make your own investments on it.
How Can You Shift to Fitness?
Getting fit may be more like the evolution of a scientific theory than a quick craze. Like a hypothesis in a scientific theory, our natural (genetic) predispositions are falsifiable. You can test and tweak them with
systematic, persistent attempts to refute them. It’s up to you to do that with the ones you don’t like.
Environment does overwrite genes, and you can do that too. The body type diets and training programs teach us that we must start from our genetic blueprint but we can sort of overwrite it. Since it is indeed overwritten by our environment, why aren’t you in charge of that shift?
Fitness is built upon an accumulation of solutions to something we don’t like or we need to get in order again because something else disrupted it. This is the very definition of training related to the concept of body homeostasis. Through training, the normal baseline situation of our body is disrupted and you don’t get back to the baseline after recovery but you improve on it (supercompensation).
Fitness is a multifaceted form of talent. As Colvin (2006) and Coyle (2009) brilliantly pinpointed in Humanities, you are not born with a fixed talent; talent is built upon an accumulation of mistakes and solutions. Again, this is like science advances (Popper, 1968) and like sport training works.
Even when genes play a large role, there’s room to overwrite something and improve it. Obesity is 70% heritable, but you can avoid being obese with some mindful practices. (data by Skwarecki, 2015).
There is a lot of evidence that genetic underpinnings can determine your athletic abilities, and make performance much easier. However, training is needed to fine-tune your practice and possible for anybody. Although science is tracking down the genes related to sport performance, you don’t need to know all those rigorous studies. And I suggest that it is better you not to know, because you could lose your vision and your drive to change.
We can thrive on our flaws and develop our own talent and fitness. Flaws – physical flaws included – have us question ourselves and move to find a solution. When we aren’t happy or comfortable because we don’t fit it, we are able to work our way till we fit it. It is similar to the path of science in discovering and learning.
In fitness, like in any field, you needn’t to bang your head on a wall – you just need to open your eyes and look at what may be unpleasant at the moment, yet change your attitude and consistently work on improving it. This is a demonstration of the interplay of nature and nurture: assess your nature but then move on through the best nurture and try to improve it, literally work it out. Searching for our mistakes and limits is way more crucial to get fit.
If fitness is an interplay of nature and nurture like it seems to be, people need to take into account both genetic and beliefs, both cells and mind. Science, too, need to take into account the genes involved – and I would suggest to think more of your mindshift for fitness and less to your gene make-up. Perhaps, if you knew you don’t have the good genes, you would surrender. You would think that the genetic freaks are born into privilege and with more advantages. In truth, the real advantage is yours. You will work out meeting your own gene limitations on your own terms (through your knowledge, your understanding of the things you can act upon, and your consistent practice). You’ll acquire those mind tools that cannot given to you by nature, but must be nurtured, learned, and earned. At the end, you will be really the fittest.
Fit by nature or by nurture?
The answer to this long-time philosophical conundrum may save you money and time. But you need to access your mind.
Armstrong, Brock, What Can Genes Tell Us about Fitness?, Scientific American, Sept. 6, 2019, Web
Brutsaert, Tom D., Esteban J. Parra (2006). What makes a champion? Explaining variation in human athletic
performance. Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology 151: 109–123.
Bouchard, C., Current understanding of the etiology of obesity: genetic and nongenetic factors, The
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 53, Issue 6, June 1991, Pages 1561S– 1565S, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/53.6.1561S
Colvin, Geoffrey. “What It Takes to Be Great.” CNN Money. Cable News Network, 29 Oct. 2006. Web.
Coyle, Daniel. The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. New York: Bantam, 2009.
Popper, Karl R. The Logic of Scientific Discovery. London :Hutchinson, 1968.
Skwarecki, Beth, How Much Does Genetics Really Affect Your Fitness?. October 2015, Web
Yan X, Papadimitriou I, Lidor R, Eynon N. Nature versus Nurture in Determining Athletic Ability. Med Sport Sci. 2016;61:15-28. doi: 10.1159/000445238. Epub 2016 Jun 10. Review. PubMed: 27287074.