Personalized training? Take a look at my genes

It has happened to everyone that while watching the Olympics, wondering why the batteries of 100 and 200 meters are dominated by black athletes or why swimmers are almost always white athletes. It seems that origin influences sports performance. Without entering into the scientific question of genetic variability that could determine ethnic differences, we can make ourselves a more general question: does our genome influence our athletic performance? It has been shown that athletic performance depends on different skills such as training and mental attitude 1,2. However, more and more evidence suggests that genetic markers may partially explain this inter-individual performance variability in response to training 3,4.

To date, classical genetic methods such as “candidate gene analysis”, has allowed the identification of over 200 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with some traits related to athletic performance 3. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have been recently performed and associated sports performance with genetic characteristics. This type of studies could allow the categorization of individuals into groups according to their performance potential. One advantage of these GWAS is that need no prior hypotheses about genes and variants involved in physical performance, allowing in that way the discovery of new metabolic pathways 5,6.

Existing results are still far away from unrevealing a direct link between a particular polymorphism and athletic performance. However, it has been already started the discussion of customized genetic testing for talented and elite athletes7.

It will not be far when we could talk about, not only a personalized diet based on our genetic profile, but also about personalized training based on the same profile.


By Valentini Konstantinidou & Matteo Vigano



1. Bouchard, C.,et al. Genomics and genetics in the biology of adaptation to exercise. Compr. Physiol. 1, 1603–48 (2011).

2. Ahmetov, I. et al. Genome-wide association study identifies three novel genetic markers associated with elite endurance performance. Biol. Sport 32, 3–9 (2015).

3. Pitsiladis, Y. et al. Genomics of elite sporting performance: what little we know and necessary advances. Br. J. Sports Med. 47, 550–5 (2013).

4. GUILHERME, J. P. L. F., et al Genetics and sport performance: current challenges and directions to the future. Rev. Bras. Educ. Física e Esporte 28, 177–193 (2014).

5. Visscher, P. M., et alFive years of GWAS discovery. Am. J. Hum. Genet. 90, 7–24 (2012).

6. Gibson, W. T. Genetics and Sports. Medicine and sport science 54, (KARGER, 2009).

7. Loland, S. Against Genetic Tests for Athletic Talent: The Primacy of the Phenotype. Sports Med. (2015).

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