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Scientists are working to develop so-called "exercise pills" and they're making some progress, according to two studies published recently. So is there really scope to avoid exercise without a downside, or is this one area of our lives we shouldn’t outsource to a pharmaceutical company?This research is still in preliminary stages so you may not want to pack away your gym clothes just yet!
Researchers are working hard to bottle at least some of the benefits of exercise.
It will be many years before something like this could reasonably appear on the market.
Two new papers recently published in scientific journals, suggest that science is getting closer to an exercise pill.
For the first time, the changes that occur to muscles as a result of exercise have been mapped in detail Scientists have long suspected that exercise causes a complicated series of changes to human muscle, but this is the first time they have been able to map what happens.
In another paper published this month, researchers reported on the progress of several labs developing exercise pills.The review looked at several compounds that can trigger at least one beneficial exercise effect. Compounds that mimic one or more of the effects of exercise have been identified. There are compounds that can develop muscle strength, develop new blood vessels, form new mitochondria in cells and increase the body’s capacity for exercise.
No research has been undertaken in humans yet, and scientists are still to work out effective dosages in people and possible side effects. Even with the promise of these compounds, sweating isn’t off your to-do list - we’re in early days.
The main goal of the pill is to improve muscle strength and tone, which could make it particularly useful for people who cannot exercise for medical reasons.
The real promise of exercise pills is not to replace exercise, but to help people who have reduced muscle ability due to disabling diseases, paralysis, stroke or spinal cord injuries. For those who aren’t physically able to exercise, the hope is that they can recover more muscle control when they use pills alongside physical therapy. Maintaining muscle tone in people who can’t exercise would be the initial focus of such a pill, but there are no drugs (yet) that can safely deliver 1000 effects, so this dream is really still in its infancy.
Muscle tone is, of course, just one of the many benefits of exercise.Exercise has such a broad effect on our body – not just on muscle cells, but also psychologically, as well as for blood glucose control, blood pressure, immunity, and control of inflammation. It affects our heart and lungs, the entire system, not just the muscles cells themselves.
In other words, the pill wouldn't be a true replacement for exercise.
Take home messages:
If people to do more exercise, they will get benefit from it, no question.
There are promises and limitations of stuffing physical activity into a capsule – particularly for people who are unable to exercise.
An exercise pill is not going to make a couch potato into Arnold Schwarzenegger.
If you want the health benefits of exercise, you’re going to have to get off the couch.
Exercise really is the best medicine!