The review describes the idea of an exercise pill as “an achievable goal based on our improved understanding of the molecular targets of physical exercise”.
Currently exercise pills are in the early stages of development, with various animal tests being carried out that mainly target skeletal muscles, resulting in them becoming stronger and faster.
But researchers are not trying to let healthy people off the hook of taking responsibility for their fitness. The pills are no substitute for exercise and are designed for those who, for one reason or another, have a legitimate excuse not to exercise.
The reviewers write:
The concept of ‘exercise pills’ has great potential for use in patients having low exercise compliance or in those for whom regular exercise is not feasible. Our increased understanding of the molecular targets of physical exercise makes it possible to design agents that mimic the physiological benefits of exercise.
They analyse the current candidate exercise pills, dividing into three categories: pharmacological agonists, hormones, and phytochemicals – chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants. But none of them yet hold the key.
None of the candidate exercise pills fully mimics the beneficial effects of exercise, but each exercise pill can activate distinct as well as overlapping target transcriptional regulators that can partly mimic the beneficial effects of physical exercise.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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