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Just 10 Minutes of Intense Cycling Initiates Muscle Clean-Up

By Jiri Kaloc

New research from the University of Copenhagen reveals another benefit of cycling. The researchers observed that even a short intense training session increases the activity of a protein called Ubiquitin, which is responsible for muscle clean-up.

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports conducted an experiment where 6 healthy, untrained men aged 26 to 28 completed an 8-11 minute bike ride. Then their blood tests and muscle biopsies from before and after the exercise were analysed to see changes in Ubiquitin activity.

Cycling boosts Ubiquitin activity

This study demonstrated that a single bike ride results in a significant increase in the activity of Ubiquitin. It is called the “death marker protein” because it tags onto worn-out proteins, causing them to be degraded. This prevents the accumulation of damaged proteins and helps keep muscles healthy. Increased activity of this protein initiates a subsequent intensification of the targeting and removal of worn-out proteins in muscles, which leads to a build-up of new healthy proteins.

“Muscles eliminate worn-out proteins in several ways. One of these methods is when Ubiquitin, ‘the death-marker,’ tags a protein in question. Ubiquitin itself is a small protein. It attaches itself to the amino acid Lysine on worn-out proteins, after which the protein is transported to a Proteasome, which is a structure that gobbles up proteins and spits them out as amino acids. These amino acids can then be reused in the synthesis of new proteins. As such, Ubiquitin contributes to a very sustainable circulation of the body’s proteins,” explains Professor Erik Richter of the Section for Molecular Physiology at UCPH’s Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports.

Another proof that physical activity is healthy

These findings strengthen the foundation for the effect of physical activity as we understand it now.

“Basically, it explains part of the reason why physical activity is healthy. The beauty is that muscle use, in and of itself, is what initiates the processes that keep muscles ‘up to date’, healthy and functional,” co-author of the study, Professor Jørgen Wojtaszewski, explains.

Ever wondered what kind of muscle you’re using right there at that moment during your ride? We made an infographic just to answer that question. The lines on the wheel symbolize the part of a stroke you use the muscle on and the colour tells you easily which one it is. Enjoy and don’t forget to like it on Facebook!
Ever wondered what kind of muscle you’re using right there at that moment during your ride?

We can see that physical activity benefits health in many ways. It’s not just about fitness, it can help with prevention of metabolic disease too. Most of the carbohydrates that we eat are stored in muscles, so the health and fitness of our muscles influences our ability to process carbs. The fact that exercise promotes building and maintenance of healthy muscles means it has a big impact not only on our ability to move, but also on our metabolic regulation.