Not seeing results from your workouts? New research may explain the reason

Genetic variations could be the reason people experience varying results despite following the same workout regimes

Women looks at herself in the mirror at the gym
(Image credit: Getty)

It’s natural to feel disappointed when you don’t see or feel any results from working out. But science has potentially found why people achieve different results even if they follow the same exercise regime.

While there are specific fitness styles to promote results, such as the best exercises for weight loss, scientists from Cambridge Centre for Sport and Exercise Sciences at Anglia Ruskin University have found that genetic differences are the reason why people experience different results from the same exercise.

Data was analysed from 24 different studies in which people performed the same type of exercises before being assessed for results. The research then looked at the different levels of performance and searched for the reasons behind those differences. The biggest finding from the study was that genetic variations accounted for up to 72% of the differences seen in people following the same basic strength-based exercises.

When the participants all tried aerobic exercises, there was, as you might expect, different levels of performance. The research found genetic differences caused 44% of these differences. Genetics also caused 10% of the differences in results following anaerobic fitness exercises.

Women is assisted by someone as she lifts a pair of dumbbells

(Image credit: Getty)

They discovered 13 genes that play a role in exercise outcomes. They also found specific alleles (you receive two alleles for each gene, one from each parent) within these genes that are better suited to different parts of fitness. 

This is why there was such a large difference in outcomes for the strength-based exercises. Those who had better results from the repetition exercises – which are typically used to build and strengthen muscle – will hold specific gene alleles that align with muscular strength exercise. 

According to the American Council on Exercise, dumbbells are an effective type of equipment for stimulating muscle growth. You might find strength-based workouts feel more effective for you: if so, it's worthwhile considering buying your own set of best adjustable dumbbells so you can weight-train whenever and wherever you please.

However, after a while, you might find this might not be the form of exercise that gets you results, or even that you just don't enjoy it. But the wonderful thing about fitness is that it incorporates so many different aspects: if you don't like weight-training, why not try a set of the best resistance bands, or rock-climbing, or a yoga class?

Henry Chung, the lead author of the study and Postgraduate Researcher said, “Because everyone's genetic make-up is different, our bodies respond slightly differently to the same exercises,” he added, “Therefore, it should be possible to improve the effectiveness of an exercise regime by identifying someone's genotype and then tailoring a specific training programme just for them.”

You don’t necessarily need to seek out a specific programme for yourself but devoting your workouts to a more specific style could promote greater outcomes. 

How about trying the following:

  • Running: An excellent form of cardio that has long been known as an effective fat-burning activity. If you want to take up running we have an an 8-week running plan for beginners designed to be helpful and effective for first-timers. 
  • HIIT: High intensity interval training will be sure to make you sweat and is also a very time-efficient option for burning calories. 
  • Yoga: Yoga is a lower-intensity form of exercise (usually), but it can improve strength, flexibility and breathing if practised regularly. 
Jessica Downey
Jessica Downey

Jessica is Staff Writer at Fit&Well. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition. She is a keen runner and is currently sweating her way through a 10k training plan. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen - which she loves sharing with others on her healthy living-inspired Instagram account, @jessrunshere. Despite her love for nutritious cooking, she stands by the saying ‘everything in moderation’ and is eagerly conquering the London food and drink scene!