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Is Health Hereditary?

Think your health is all in the genes? Science says you have more control than you think.

We think certain factors of our health are uncontrollable. Immune response, longevity, and our reaction to stress were considered hard-wired and out of our control. Right? Not Exactly.

New research is showing that controlling the uncontrollable is not only possible but easier than we think. We know that moving throughout the day, meditation, and flexibility make us feel better. Here are some other important ways these healthy habits effect our lives:

Meditation Can Ward Off Illness

In a recent study, researchers trained some people in breathing and meditation practices, leaving others with no training. Later, researchers injected everyone with bacteria known to cause flu-like symptoms. What they found was amazing: The people who had the breathing and meditation practices, experienced less flu-like symptoms and were better able to ward of more illness.

How to take control:  Both meditation and breathing techniques (it was likely the breathing that had the most profound effects on the trained men) have been shown to calm stress, boost mood, and fend off disease. In fact, recent research in the Annals of Family Medicine found that people who followed a meditation practice for 8 months got sick far less than those on an 8-month cardio routine!

Good Mobility Can Add Years To Your Life

A long, healthy life may run in grandma’s genes, but new research points to the idea that certain physical performance tests can also help predict longevity, explains Michael Joyner, M.D. Joyner cites a recent study of about 2,000 people: The easier it is for you to pick yourself up off the ground (going from sitting to standing without using your hands), the longer you’ll likely live.

How to take control: Keep it simple. Start with your own bodyweight. A simple push-up or pull-up will do just fine. A BMJstudy found that good muscular strength and mobility are linked to a 20 to 35 percent lower risk of early death from cardiovascular disease—regardless of BMI or blood pressure.

Exercise Can Stop Stress

In a recent (and remarkable!) Princeton University study by Elizabeth Gould, mice were split into two groups: one with unlimited access to a running wheel and one that remained sedentary. Six weeks later, all the mice were put in cold water to induce a stress response. The differences in brain activity were drastic: The mice that hadn’t worked out showed an immediate stress response. The fit mice, on the other hand, showed a much less excitable response in their brain activity.

How to take control: Make sweating a habit. Help build the habit by spending time doing something you enjoyassociating stress relievers with fun makes you more likely to go back to them.

It’s a comfort to know that we have more of a chance at effecting our health than we once thought. While we honor the richness of the past, we are free to effect change whenever we like. Having the ability to take control of our wellbeing will, among other health benefits, help to keep our outlook positive and hopeful.