Let’s face it — the first time you try a new fitness class is usually not the best. Normally, it involves trying to subtly glance over at your neighbour to check whether you’re doing the exercise right, and wondering why nobody else seems to be as sweaty as you.
Still, you can tell the class has potential. So, you decide to come back and give it another chance. And another, then another. Slowly, you begin to get better at it, see results and hey, maybe even enjoy it a little!
But what if those results never come? What if you keep slogging it out in the same class each week and never get fitter or stronger? While some trainers will tell you that you’re just not working hard enough, a new study published in Nature Medicine journal shows that there may be another reason behind the lack of improvement.
The study from Japan’s Kanazawa University has shed new light onto a condition experts call ‘exercise resistance.’ The researchers suspected that high levels of selenoprotein P (a protein secreted by the liver) is linked to reduced exercise capacity and fewer exercise-related health benefits.
To test the theory, the researchers carried out two studies. The first was with a group of mice, who did 30-minute treadmill runs for one month. At the end of the month, the mice that had low levels of selenoprotein P showed higher capacity than regular lab mice.
In the second study, 31 healthy but sedentary women who underwent aerobic training for eight weeks. The researchers measured their maximal oxygen consumption and discovered that those with high levels of selenoprotein P in the blood before training did not show much elevation.
When maximal oxygen consumption is elevated, the body can take in more oxygen and deliver it to the muscles, which enables you to run faster. These people are what you would consider ‘exercise resistant.’
Some people show complete non-responsiveness to exercise training in terms of aerobic improvement. These findings indicate that some people suffer from exercise resistance and derive limited benefits from the health-promoting effects of physical exercise.
-Study co-author Hirofumi Misu
Given that your selenoprotein P levels are dictated by your genetics, there’s currently not much you can do if yours are high. However, the researchers believe the study has paved the way for screening for the gene as well as the production of drugs that reduce selenoprotein P production to improve exercise endurance.