Could this new 'exercise pill' replace working out?
Scientists are developing an "exercise pill" intended to have the same physical benefits as a real workout session - without working out.
It sounds too good to be true but this is more than just the stuff of our fantasies, it's a serious scientific goal.
A team of researchers at the Australia's University of Sydney and Denmark's University of Copenhagen examined the protein changes that occurred in the skeletal muscle of four healthy men.
The four participants had a muscle biopsy before and after exercising and, after analysing the details, the researchers found that exercise creates more than 1,000 unique molecular changes in skeletal muscles.
For example, they discovered that working out impacts the body's sensitivity to insulin and can even encourage the production of new blood vessels.
This discovery enabled them to create a blueprint of the molecular reactions to exercise that they are looking to recreate with a pill.
“While scientists have long suspected that exercise causes a complicated series of changes to human muscle, this is the first time we have been able to map exactly what happens," Nolan Hoffman, one of the study's authors said in a statement.
However, before you get carried away and burn your gym gear, note that this exercise pill won't give you all the benefits of a good workout. The blueprint is incredibly complex and because no single drug could safely mimic all 1,000 effects of exercising, the scientists must identify the most significant biological changes before they can start to create the pill.
Though two of the main targets of the drug may be strengthening muscles and lowering cholesterol, the pill won't give you those feel-good endorphins that come from a stress-busting sprint around your local park.
"I want to be clear that really there is no way to replace routine exercise with an exercise pill," co-author of the study, Ismail Laher, explained in an interview with The Washington Post. "Exercise requires your heart rate to go up, blood to flow faster, and you cannot do that with an exercise pill."
However, Laher explained that the pill could be the "next best thing" for the elderly, as well as people who suffer from obesity, type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and those with chronic injuries.
The quick-fix solution won't be available anytime soon. It took three years alone for the researchers to develop the blueprint and they estimate that it may be another 10 years before it's available on the market.
In the meantime, if you want to reap the benefits of exercise, you'll have to put in the hard work. Even moderate amounts of exercise can lead to measurable physical and mental health benefits that you won't find in a pill.