Scientists believe we could be closer to developing a drug that gives us the benefits of exercising without moving a muscle.
A studies has shown that a compound affected levels of a protein called REV-ERB in muscles – which has been shown to boost metabolism, normalise cholesterol levels and affect how much we sleep.
Experts hope that the compound could one day help disabled people get the benefits of exercise without having to move.
The study, published this week by researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in Florida, found that when their compound was injected into obese mice, it helped them lose weight – even if they were on a high-fat diet – and improved their cholesterol levels, according to a New York Times report.
The treated mice also began using more oxygen throughout the day and expending about 5 per cent more energy than untreated mice, even though they were not moving about more than the other animals.
This in effect means the compound boosted their metabolism.
Scripps scientists also worked with researchers at the Pasteur Institute in France and other institutions, to discover what their compound might be doing inside muscles to provide this ‘invisible’ exercise.
They knew that their drug increased the potency of the REV-ERB protein, but no one knew what it actually did to muscles.
They therefore developed a strain of mice that could not express very much of the protein in their muscle cells.
These animals were what they described as ‘anti-athletes’.
One of the hallmarks of regular aerobic exercise is that it increases the number and activity of the mitochondria, the cellular structures that help to generate energy while consuming oxygen, in the muscles.
But these animals’ muscles contained very few mitochondria.
As a result, the animals had diminished endurance, with a maximam oxygen capacity about 60 percent lower than normal.
They reached exhaustion on treadmill testing long before their unaffected labmates.
But when, in a separate part of the experiment, scientists added their compound to isolated muscle cells from the deficient mice, the cells began pumping out far more REV-ERB.
Those cells, subsequently, began creating large numbers of new mitochondria and strengthening the existing ones.
The drug act as an exercise mimic, explained co-author Thomas Burris, now the chairman of the department of pharmacological and physiological science at St Louis University School of Medicine.
It is not inconceivable, he added, that at some point in the future, such a drug might allow people, especially those who are disabled or can’t otherwise exercise, to enjoy the health benefits of endurance without the exertion.
Attribution: Rachel Reilly, Mail Online
It sounds like a couch potato’s dream: two-and-a-half minutes of exercise could be just as good as a 90-minute run.
Research suggests that short, sharp bursts of exercise are better at warding off heart disease than much longer – but less strenuous – sessions.
Those on the exercise bike pedalled as hard as they could for 30 seconds, rested for up to four minutes and then repeated the pattern four times.
This meant that, in all, they did two and a half minutes of exercise strenuous enough to make them sweat and leave them out of breath.
The others walked at the sort of brisk pace recommended in health guidelines.
A day later, they came back into the lab and ate a fatty breakfast and lunch consisting of bread, mayonnaise and cheese.
Their blood was then tested to see how quickly the levels of fat in their blood fell – as fat lingering in the blood after eating is known to trigger the first in a series of steps that can lead to clogging of the arteries and heart disease.
The results revealed that walking cut fat by 11 per cent, compared with not doing any exercise.
Dr Gray, of Aberdeen University, told the British Science Festival that short bursts of intensive exercise may somehow spur the liver into taking in more fat from the blood, before storing it or burning it off.
He said that, while the high intensity training ‘won’t necessarily’ improve strength, it does boost endurance. He added that the short duration of the exercise was ‘highly important as time is often cited as the main barrier to taking part in exercise’.
The need to rest between the high-intensity activity means the whole routine took around 20 minutes – and it has to be done regularly.
Dr Gray said: ‘Although moderate intensity, longer sessions of exercise can help protect the body against cardio-vascular disease, the findings of our study showed that higher-intensity shorter intervals of exercise might be a more effective method to improve health and reduce the time commitment to exercise.’