As the weather changes and the stifling heat of summer gives way to the cooler temperatures of fall, more and more people are stepping out of the gym to get their exercise. There’s something incredibly peaceful about running on a brisk morning as the leaves change color. Whether training for a marathon or just trying to improve mile time, we all want to improve our performance. A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology shows the role of NRF2 in high endurance athletic activity (like distance running!)

What is NRF2, you ask? NRF2 is a protein messenger that binds itself to DNA. It is the master regulator of the body’s aging process, and is critical in the fight against oxidative stress. The study, conducted by Physiological Genomics, discovered that endurance athletes are more likely to have higher levels of the NRF2 genes than sprinters. More studies will need to be conducted to determine the cause and effect relationship – basically, does NRF2 lead to improved athletic ability, or vice-versa?

The researchers chose to study NRF2 because a series of earlier studies showed that NRF2 may play a role in athletic ability. How? NRF2 helps produce new mitochondria, which in turn produce energy within cells. And as I said above, NRF2 helps fight the effects of oxidative stress, which can increase during exercise. The really interesting part of the new study? It seems that NRF2 protects the body more the higher the strain and damage caused by exercise!

Curious about the link between Nrf2 and athletics? Click here! Meanwhile, who knows? Maybe some of us really are born to run!

Image Credit: hojusaram