The reason couch potatoes can’t leave the sofa revealed

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Exercise fires up a protein in the body that makes you active, so the less exercise you do, the harder it becomes.

University of Leeds scientists have discovered that deactivating the protein, called Piezo1, reduces the density of capillaries carrying blood to the muscles.

This restricted flow means activity becomes more difficult and can lead to a reduction in how much exercise is actually possible.

The team says it explains the biology of why exercise becomes harder the less you do.

Lead author Fiona Bartoli said: “Exercise protects against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and cancer.

“Unfortunately, many people fail to exercise enough.

“This puts people at more risk of disease. The less people exercise, the less fit they become, often leading to a downward spiral.”

She added: “Our study highlights the crucial link between physical activity and physical performance made at this level by Piezo1. Keeping our Piezo1 active by exercising may be crucial in our physical performance and health.”

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The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, was carried out on mice but Piezo1 is found in humans, suggesting the same results could occur.

Professor David Beech, of the University of Leeds’ School of Medicine, said: “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.”

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