Saturday May 06, 2017

Exercise may one day be prescribed in a pill

A pill that delivers some of the benefits of exercise without the physical effort could one day be prescribed to help people with obesity or mobility issues burn fat.

A pill that delivers some of the benefits of exercise without the physical effort could one day be prescribed to help people with obesity or mobility issues burn fat. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Listen 8:44

When it comes to exercise, we are told there is no substitute. If you want to improve your fitness and endurance, the only way to do it is by physically exercising.  But that may change if results of new research in animals turns out to work in humans

A new study in the journal Cell Metabolism looked at an exercise pill that was given to mice. The mice that didn't get it ran for 160-minutes before they became exhausted, but with it, the mice were able to increase their endurance and run for 270 minutes.

MARATHON MICE

Scientists at the Salk Institute tested what's been called an 'exercise pill' on mice. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

The drug, known as GW501516, works by changing the point at which the mice hit the proverbial wall. When a person hits that wall, their brain has essentially run out of sugar, or glucose. The drug targets a molecular switch that turns off genes associated with sugar metabolism, and turns on the genes that break down fats. This leaves more sugar in the system for the brain to use, so the mice ran longer because they were able to put off hitting the wall. The same thing happens in endurance training when a person is able to train their system to start metabolizing fats rather than sugar.

A pill that delivers some of the benefits of exercise without the physical effort could one day be prescribed to help people with obesity, muscular dystrophy, or mobility issues, burn fat.

Dr. Ronald Evans is the senior author of the study. He's a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and the Director of the Gene Expression Laboratory at the Salk Institute in San Diego, California. While the results of this study are extremely promising, this drug is only a prototype. He is currently testing other compounds that could target this same molecular switch, which he hopes to test on humans soon.