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'Workouts become harder if you break good exercise habit due to crucial protein'

By Miriam Stoppard

I’m all too aware that if I let my daily exercise lapse, it’s ­extremely hard to take up the reins and get back into my usual routine.

I thought that was just my muscles getting lazy but research from Leeds University shows it goes deeper.

My deconditioning could be due to the deactivation of a vital protein in the body called Piezo1, which increases the number of blood vessels carrying blood to the muscles.

Switching off Piezo1 cuts down the blood flow to muscles, making exercise more difficult and lessening how much you can do.

The results would help to explain why workouts, jogging and walks become harder if you break the habit.

Fiona Bartoli, postdoctoral researcher at Leeds Medical School said: “Our study highlights the crucial link between physical activity and physical performance made at this level by Piezo1.”

While the experiments were carried out in mice, the same protein is found in human beings, suggesting similar results would occur in us.

(Getty Images)

Bartoli added: ­“Exercise protects against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, ­depression and cancer.

“Unfortunately, many people fail to ­exercise enough, for reasons such as injury and computer usage. This puts people at more risk of disease. The less people exercise, then the less fit they become, often leading to a ­downward spiral.

“Keeping our Piezo1s active by ­exercising may be crucial in our ­physical performance and health.”

Two groups of mice – a control group, and a group whose Piezo1 levels had been disrupted for 10weeks – were studied when walking, climbing and running on their wheel.

The Piezo1-disrupted mice showed a striking reduction in activity levels, suggesting an important part is played by the protein in sustaining normal physical activity.

Researchers considered whether the mice were just less interested in exercise, but they found no differences in the amount or duration of activity between the two groups.

Instead the mice just ran more slowly suggesting their ability to exercise had lessened, rather than the desire to do it. Same as me.

Supervising author Professor David Beech says: “Our work sheds new light on how Piezo1’s role in blood vessels is connected to physical activity.

“Our discovery also provides an opportunity to think about how loss of muscle function could be treated in new ways.

“If we activate Piezo1, it might help to maintain exercise capability.”

Pass the Piezo1 tablets.

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Dive Deeper:
'Workouts become harder if you break good exercise habit due to crucial protein'
New research from Leeds University shows a vital protein in the body could play an important part in helping us…
Long Covid sufferers at far greater risk of blood clots, study says
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What I gained (and lost) from walking 10,000 steps a day for five months
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What I gained (and lost) from walking 10,000 steps a day for five months
10,000 may be an arbitrary number, but the daily step goal has helped improve my mental and physical health
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
What I gained (and lost) from walking 10,000 steps a day for five months
10,000 may be an arbitrary number, but the daily step goal has helped improve my mental and physical health
Dementia experts share six ways to reduce risks of condition 'by a third'
Keeping active - from working out to learning to play the guitar - will lessen the risks of dementia.
Get all your news in one place