Monday, July 22, 2013

The “Exercise Pill” May Be Coming

An "exercise" pill could be on the horizon.
An "exercise" pill could be on the horizon.
Image: Shutterstock
I read an article today that I really wanted to share with you all, because I think it’s a topic that really needs to be discussed. The topic: the fact that an “exercise pill” may be on our horizon.

Not a diet pill. An exercise pill. To me, those words do not belong together, but it seems that some would disagree. You see, scientists have been working on creating a pill that would enable humans to get some critical benefits of exercise—while maintaining a fatty diet and being completely complacent.



But even the study’s co-author, Dr. Thomas Burris, has reservations about such a pill and its potential misuses. Past studies have focused on increasing metabolism and increasing the body’s energy output—like what happens when we actually exercise. This study took it one step further, though, and found that when a protein called REV-ERB was activated, partial control over circadian rhythms was also possible—at least in obese mice.

When applied to obese mice that had been genetically engineered to be “anti-athletes,” (decreased oxygen capacities, low levels of mitochondria, poor endurance) researchers found some stunning results. The application of REV-ERB to the obese mice caused the mice to begin producing high levels of mitochondria and REV-ERB. Because of this, the mice soon were able to outperform the other untreated mice in running trials.

Would an exercise pill be "cheating" biology?
Would an exercise pill be "cheating" biology?
Image: Shutterstock
The research is still in its beginning stages and is a long way from being tested on humans. It is certainly compelling, but brings up a critical issue—that of morality within the pharmaceutical industry.

What are the implications of creating an “exercise pill” that allows people to reap the benefits of exercise without actually doing anything? While many of us who love exercise may feel it a betrayal of our moral code, others may not feel the same. What about those who have serious struggles with obesity, putting them at risk for life-threatening health problems?

There are many people who are unable to get their weight under control—whether because of medical, genetic, or willpower issues. There are people who cannot exercise for medical reasons. A pill like this could be life changing.

But would it be right? Such a pill feels a little like cheating, especially if able-bodied people were to use it just to get out of exercising. The goal of the actual research is to help those who are unable to get any aerobic exercise, an honorable intention.


What do you think of the “exercise pill?” It’s an issue that I am personally torn on, and I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments!
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