This puts people at more risk of disease. The fewer people exercise, the less fit they become, often leading to a downward spiral.
Although many responses to exercise are known, how the benefits of exercise are initially triggered at the cellular level is mysterious. To find out more about this, researchers carried out experiments in mice.
They compared two groups of mice – a control group, and a group whose Piezo1 levels had been disrupted for 10 weeks.
Walking, climbing, and running wheel activity were observed, with the Piezo1 mice showing a striking reduction in activity levels. This suggests an important role for Piezo1 in sustaining normal physical activity.
Considering that Piezo1 mice were less interested in exercise, there were no differences in the amount or duration of activity between the two groups.
Instead, there were fewer running wheel revolutions per exercise session, and slower running speed, suggesting a lowered ability to exercise, without a lesser desire. This finding explains the biology of why exercise becomes harder the less you do.
Difficulty in exercising and reduction in exercise may be linked to the restricted blood flow controlled by Piezo 1 protein. This finding also highlights the crucial link between physical activity and physical performance made at this level by Piezo1 protein.
Supervising author Professor David Beech, in the University of Leeds’ School of Medicine, said: “Our work sheds new light on how Piezo1’s role in blood vessels is connected to physical activity. A lot was already known about its role in blood vessel development, but far less was known about its contribution to vessel maintenance in adults”.
This discovery also provides an opportunity to think about how the loss of muscle function could be treated in new ways if we activate Piezo1 protein to maintain exercise capability.