Flexibility: Understanding The Genetics

Latest Posts

Table of Contents

Flexibility: Understanding The Genetics

Date of Content: May 19, 2024
Written by: Avanthika Nityanand
Reviewed by: Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD


Flexibility refers to the ability of a joint or series of joints to move through an unrestricted, pain-free motion range. This physical attribute is also associated with the length of the muscles that cross the joints; greater muscle length contributes to a broader range of movement. 

Elasticity and length of muscles influence flexibility. Connective tissues such as tendons and ligaments, which contain elastin fibers, allow them to stretch and return to their original state. Joint structure, including the bone shape and the composition of the synovial fluid, plays a critical role in determining the range of motion. Additionally, the nervous system regulates flexibility by controlling muscle reflexes and resistance to stretching. Age, activity level, and genetics can further modify these biological components, impacting overall flexibility.


Why is Flexibility Important?

Flexibility is crucial for overall health and physical efficiency. It enhances the ability to move freely, perform everyday activities, and engage in various forms of exercise without discomfort or restrictions. Improved flexibility contributes to better posture, reduces the risks of muscle cramps and injuries, and relaxes the muscular system. Flexibility also helps maintain a more balanced musculoskeletal health. It is vital for the longevity of physical capabilities and preventing movement-related disorders.

Can Flexibility be Genetic?

Genetic factors influence the structural properties of the collagen within connective tissues, which affects tissue elasticity and joint mobility. Additionally, genetic predispositions can influence body composition and muscle length, further impacting flexibility. A 2016 meta-analysis explored the genetic and environmental influences on flexibility among other physical fitness components. The findings revealed a significant heritability estimate of 77% for flexibility.


The COL5A1 gene is a crucial gene that encodes for type V collagen, one of the minor collagen components found in connective tissues throughout the human body. This collagen is especially significant in the skin, tendons, and bone. It plays a foundational role in forming and maintaining these tissues. Researchers have studied the variations in the COL5A1 gene for their potential influence on flexibility, joint mobility, and risks associated with specific sports injuries, like tendon and ligament ruptures.

A 2015 study explored the link between the COL5A1 gene polymorphism and range of motion, specifically through the passive straight leg raise (SLR) and whole body joint laxity (WBJL). The study involved 177 participants (109 males and 68 females) in an Asian population of Korean and Japanese college students. Their COL5A1 rs12722 polymorphism was genotyped among the participants. Findings revealed that this specific COL5A1 gene polymorphism is associated with an increased range of motion in the SLR test among the Asian population studied, indicating its potential impact on flexibility and joint movement.


The ACTN3 gene encodes the protein α-actinin-3. It is highly expressed in fast-twitch muscle fibers crucial for high-speed and power activities. This gene is famous for its R577X (rs1815739 (C>T), polymorphism, which directly affects the presence or absence of α-actinin-3 due to genetic variation and thus influences muscle function and athletic performance.

A 2017 study investigated the link between the  same ACTN3 R577X polymorphism and flexibility and muscular strength and power in two separate cohorts from the Tokyo metropolitan area. Cohort 1 included 208 men and 568 women aged 23-88, and Cohort 2 consisted of 529 men and 728 women aged 23-87. All participants underwent testing for grip strength and sit-and-reach flexibility. When they pooled the data from both cohorts, the results indicated that the RR genotype (rs1815739 CC) was significantly associated with lower flexibility when compared to the RX and XX genotypes.

You may also like: Decoding the Genetics of Power and Endurance

Other Markers

In 2020, researchers conducted a large genome-wide association study (GWAS) on 796 European athletes and analyzed 476,728 SNPs. The objective was to explore the genetic factors influencing elite endurance athletic performance, including traits such as flexibility. A significant finding from the meta-analysis was the association of SNP rs1052373 in the Myosin Binding Protein C3 (MYBPC3) gene (known for its role in cardiac hypertrophic myopathy) with the status of endurance athletes. European athletes who were homozygous for the G-allele of rs1052373 had an odds ratio of 2.2 for being elite endurance athletes.

A 2023 GWAS focused on the genetic factors that may influence athletic performance. It focused on sports that require excellent coordination and agility. A notable discovery was identifying a genome-wide significant association with the SNP rs117047321, confirmed in a replication study. The CG genotype of this SNP, found exclusively in Asia, particularly among East Asians, was associated with longer average movement times when compared to the CC genotype. This SNP is in the MYO5B gene, a gene highly expressed in critical tissues such as the brain, heart, and muscles, indicating its potential role in human energy metabolism.

While genetics set a baseline, environmental factors like activity level and training are vital in determining flexibility as described further in this article.

Can Flexibility be Improved?

Regardless of your fitness level, flexibility can be improved at any age. Regular stretching exercises that extend muscles beyond their normal length can increase flexibility over time. Consistency is pivotal, as flexibility training requires persistent effort to elongate muscle tissues and boost joint mobility. Incorporating stretching techniques, such as static, dynamic, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF), can effectively enhance flexibility.

Can Yoga Help Flexibility?

Yoga is highly effective in improving flexibility. Regular yoga involves a variety of poses that stretch multiple muscle groups and promote the range of motion in joints. Over time, these stretches help lengthen muscles, enhance joint mobility, and improve flexibility. Additionally, yoga encourages mindfulness and body awareness, which can help prevent overstretching and injuries, contributing to safer flexibility improvements.

What are Some Flexibility Exercises?

Some standard flexibility exercises include static stretches like toe touches, hamstring stretches, and tricep stretches. Dynamic stretches such as leg swings and arm circles also improve flexibility by moving the joints through their full range of motion. Yoga poses, like the downward dog, pigeon pose, and cat-cow stretch, enhance flexibility across different body parts. Each targets various muscle groups, improving overall flexibility.

How Does Flexibility Help Prevent Injuries?

Flexibility helps prevent injuries by allowing the body to move more freely and tolerate wide ranges of motion during physical activities. Enhanced flexibility reduces the risk of muscles becoming strained or damaged when suddenly stretched during activities. Furthermore, flexible muscles are less likely to experience tears, and better joint mobility decreases the likelihood of joint injuries.

Can Flexibility Increase Speed?

While flexibility alone does not directly increase speed, it contributes to a more efficient movement pattern, enhancing overall athletic performance, including speed. Improved flexibility allows for greater freedom of movement, reducing the energy expenditure during motion. It can result in more efficient and powerful muscle contractions and extend the stride length in running, indirectly contributing to increased speed.

Can Flexibility Be Improved After the Age of 40?

Flexibility can be improved after 40, although it may require more effort and consistency compared to a younger age. As the body ages, muscles and joints naturally lose some elasticity. However, with a regular stretching routine, individuals over 40 can still achieve significant gains in flexibility. It is essential to approach flexibility training with gradual progressions to avoid injuries and include more dynamic and gentle stretching techniques to cater to the aging body.

About the LifeDNA Fitness Report

The LifeDNA Fitness Report offers a personalized analysis of how genetic factors can shape an individual’s fitness journey. The report provides insights into nearly 30 traits utilizing cutting-edge genomic science, spanning aspects such as muscle composition, metabolism, injury risk, and exercise response. This information can empower you to tailor your fitness routine and nutritional plans to sync with your genetic makeup. The LifeDNA Fitness report covers also genetics of the Flexibility Trait. Get your report here.


  1. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10519-015-9754-2
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4523805/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4241924/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28303562/
  5. https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/genetics/articles/10.3389/fgene.2020.00595/full
  6. https://www.cell.com/heliyon/pdf/S2405-8440(23)06476-9.pdf

Customer Reviews

Christopher Devlin
Christopher Devlin
LifeDNA Customer
Read More
I am so impressed with this service. I have even discussed these recommendations with my health care providers and they are all impressed too! I can’t compare it with other services as I have only tried this but I recommend. Also I think I pulled my genetics in from ancestry too which was super convenient.
LifeDNA Customer
Read More
Great source of information I was looking for a platform to make use of my existing raw data from Ancestry. I’m glad I found LifeDNA. I originally took a DNA test to learn about my roots and it’s great to know that my DNA could also play a big role in my health, diet, and even my skin. Overall, all the reports are incredible.
Shiraz Dole
Shiraz Dole
LifeDNA Customer
Read More
It is crazy how I felt that I had a strong understanding of my bodies needs, but after having my DNA analyzed by the LifeDNA team, I realized that there was so much I still did not know.
Doc Sheila Lim
Doc Sheila Lim
LifeDNA Customer
Read More
I got some pretty useful insight that helped me with my diet.

*Understanding your genetics can offer valuable insights into your well-being, but it is not deterministic. Your traits can be influenced by the complex interplay involving nature, lifestyle, family history, and others.

Our reports have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The contents on our website and our reports are for informational purposes only, and are not intended to diagnose any medical condition, replace the advice of a healthcare professional, or provide any medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult with a healthcare professional before making any major lifestyle changes or if you have any other concerns about your results. The testimonials featured may have used more than one LifeDNA or LifeDNA vendors’ product or reports.