Exercise is good for your heart, but you might be able to get some of those benefits without sweating. Researchers discovered a protein called cardiotrophin 1 makes the heart respond the same way it does to a workout.
In tests on mice and rats, the protein prompted healthy heart muscle and blood vessels to grow. And like exercise, it seemed to work best when it was applied consistently. If cardiotrophin treatment stopped, the animals' hearts reverted to their original condition.
The protein could also heal the heart. In some tests on rodents, cardiotrophin "dramatically improve[d] heart function" after heart failure and even repaired damage to the organ.
And that's intriguing to scientists. Heart failure is a major cause of death in the U.S., and it's getting more common worldwide, but there aren't many treatment options beyond drugs or an organ transplant.
Exercise can help, but people with heart failure can't always exercise. Getting the benefits without the physical stress could improve life for a lot of people.
Researchers hope to push forward with human trials, but it'll be at least several years before any treatments show up. Until then, you'll have to get your exercise the old-fashioned way.