A recent highly publicized report claimed that an exercise pill as been discovered. (1) A mystical substance was found to increase endurance in mice without exercise training. By the way, this is not the first time such an observation has been made. None the less it was widely reported that this may be the end of the need to get off the couch and soon all the benefits of exercise will be delivered via a pill. Sound too good to be true? It likely is, as mimicking the multiple health benefits of exercise with a pill would be the equivalent of creating a cancer free cigarette. If exercise could be put in a pill form, the world as we know it would be radically changed forever with healthcare and financial implications too large to quantify. We would have a new powerful therapeutic option for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia, osteoporosis, depression, old age, certain types of cancer and many other ailments some of which are not typically considered "exercise related". (2) In 2007 the Milken Institute, estimated that the top 7 chronic diseases which include CVD, cancer, diabetes, mental disorders and lung disease are estimated to cost the US 1.3 billion dollars annually; with the shift in age of the population this cost is expected to increase dramatically in coming years. (3) If exercise came in a pill we could dramatically reduce the prevalence as well as the morbidity and mortality associated of these conditions creating a much healthier, happier and more productive world. Many doctors would be out of work and hospitals would have to be downsized. But creating an exercise pill is no easy task; and as indicated by the list above, the pill would have to simultaneously benefit numerous complex physiological systems, not just improve exercise capacity as documented in the recent report. It is somewhat audacious to suggest that we can mimic the health benefits of exercise with a pill and while maybe some day in the far future this may be possible it is not likely anytime soon. However, this topic is not likely to go away soon as we know of at least 4 other substances that are currently understudy that claim to increase fitness in animals.
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