Scientists developing exercise pills

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 7th October 2015

PillsScientists are currently in the process of developing pills which mimic the effects of exercise.


A review published in the October 2015 edition of Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, (Vol. 36) examines the work of several laboratories that hope to increase muscle performance, strength and energy use through medication.


Animal testing is underway but questions have been raised regarding the effectiveness of such pills.


Can pills be a complete replacement to exercise? 


Co-author of the review, Ismail Laher from the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the University of British Columbia, is asking whether the medication can be a complete replacement to exercise.


“We have recognised the need for exercise pills for some time, and this is an achievable goal based on our improved understanding of the molecular targets of physical exercise,” said Laher.


“Clearly people derive many other rewarding experiences from exercise – such as increased cognitive function, bone strength, and improved cardiovascular function,” Laher continued. “It is unrealistic to expect that exercise pills will be able to substitute for physical exercise – at least not in the immediate future.”


The scientists do however acknowledge that the pills could assist people who cannot exercise due to illness or disability.


More research is needed on side effects before an exercise pill can be released into the market.


“We are at the early stages of this exciting new field,” Laher said. “Further development of exercise pills that act in combination may be more effective than single compounds. We just don’t know anything about their long-term use in humans yet.”


No magic cure but incidental exercise may save your life


At the same time exercise pills are being questioned, a University of Sydney study has found swapping just hour of sitting with walking or other physical activity each day decreases the chance of early death by 12 – 14 per cent.


Lead author, Associate Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis, said that the research showed how Australians should consider swapping some of the many hours spent watching TV with a walk.


“The results show that inactivity is an even bigger public health challenge than we initially thought,” said Professor Stamatakis.


Better public infrastructure could help people be active – researcher


The researcher has however said that individuals should not be solely blamed for leading inactive lifestyles and that governments need to support the public with more cycle ways, better connected parks and improved public transport which leads to incidental activity.


“The important thing for people to remember is the more you move the better, even if this movement is incidental or at a light or at a light intensity,” said Professor Stamatakis. “It doesn’t have to be formal exercise in a gym, it can be simple as kicking a ball with your kids in the backyard, going for a walk in the neighbourhood instead of watching another hour of TV, or walking your dog for an extra half an hour a day.”


The study was led by the University of Sydney in collaboration with the University College of London, San Diego State University and the National Cancer Institute, USA. Published results are available in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity.