What if when you’re injured, you could take a supplement that would allow you to get many of the benefits of exercise? Something that would slow down the atrophy of muscles and replicate the metabolic benefits of your normal activities.
Unfortunately, we’re still some way off that but researchers may have found a naturally occurring protein that does all of the above.
Two animal studies conducted at the University of Michigan that were published in January this year looked into the role of Sestrins - proteins which are induced by exercise.
The researchers compared the running and flying of flies that were bred to have reduced sestrin production against flies bred to have an overexpression of the proteins and a control group.
They induced the flies to run using something called a Power Tower exercise machine which essentially drops them repetitively to activate their instinctive climbing response.
After a three-week training period, the control group had improved its endurance. Importantly, the sestrin overexpression group achieved better results than the control group, while the sestrin-inhibited group showed worse results.
And a study that examined sestrins in mice found a group without sestrins failed to get other benefits from exercise, such as aerobic capacity and fat burning ability, that usually come with exercise.
The same research also found that sestrin reduces the muscle atrophy that is normally associated with ageing.
While these results come from animals, and we have no idea about how similar findings in human trials would be, it does indicate a relationship between sestrin and exercise benefits.
The results certainly suggest it is worth exploring what role sestrin plays in humans, and if the effects are similar it could lead us to new ways of treating the disabled and elderly so we can boost the benefits they get when they are active.