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The couch potato’s dream… a pill that acts like a workout

WOULD you like to lie around all day and achieve the honed, healthy body of a gym bunny, just by popping a pill?

This seemingly impossible dream may one day come true, after new research showed that the benefits of working out are caused by a particular protein in the body.

Sestrin, which is produced naturally during exercise, was found in tests to be the reason that physical activity burns fat, builds our muscles and improves our breathing.

The search is now on for a way to stimulate our bodies to produce the protein without exercise.

Sestrin therapy could help the elderly, who can find it difficult to exercise because of age-related muscle loss. It could also stop muscles wasting away from lack of use after an injury such as a broken limb.

‘Sestrin alone is sufficient to produce many benefits of physical movement and exercise,’ said Dr Myungjin Kim, who led the research into the protein at Michigan University in the US.

She and her team used flies bred to be incapable of producing Sestrin, and others engineered to have artificially high levels of it. They then put the insects to work on a ‘treadmill’, inspired by their habit of crawling out of test tubes. When normal flies began the regime of exercise, they began to be able to run for longer than the four to six hours they managed at first.

Flies without Sestrin showed no improvement from working out.

But the ones with inflated Sestrin levels were found to have superior stamina, whether or not they had put in the hours on the treadmill.

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