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When will we treat physical activity as a legitimate medical therapy…even though it does not come in a pill?
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  1. Timothy S Church,
  2. Steven N Blair
  1. Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Los Angeles, USA
  1. Professor T S Church, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, 6400 Perkins Road Baton Rouge, LA 70808, USA; tim.church{at}pbrc.edu

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A recent highly publicised report claimed that an exercise pill has 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. Nonetheless, 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 by a pill. Sound too good to be true? It probably 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 (CVD), 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 seven chronic diseases which include CVD, cancer, diabetes, mental disorders and lung disease are estimated to cost the US$1.3 billion 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 with 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 …

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