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Most people think of skeletal muscle as the tissue that makes us
move, and when they think of skeletal muscle and exercise, they
think of Olympians. Both perceptions grossly oversimplify this most
plentiful of all tissues in the human body. Genes in skeletal muscle
are exquisitely responsive to changes in loads, in some cases
responding with protein production within minutes of the onset of
exercise. The actions of these proteins explain adaptations to
exercise as wide ranging as long-term improvements in fitness and
extremely short-term protection of the nervous system from glycogen
depletion. Further, their absence in sedentary people may also help
cause obesity, type-2 diabetes and even some cancers. The authors
hypothesize that these systems, refined through millennia in our
hunter-gatherer ancestors, have become maladaptive in the past few
centuries as our physical activity levels have plummeted.
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