July 31, 2008
Scientists Put Exercise In A Pill

To supplement these drugs we are going to need pills that plant memories of a cross-country hike or perhaps memories of a river rafting trip. Two compounds make mice boost their treadmill performance. While GW1516 enhances the effects of exercise AICAR eliminates the need. Time to tune in, turn on, and drop exercise pills.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers have identified two drugs that mimic many of the physiological effects of exercise. The drugs increase the ability of cells to burn fat and are the first compounds that have been shown to enhance exercise endurance.

Both drugs can be given orally and work by genetically reprogramming muscle fibers so they use energy better and can contract repeatedly without fatigue. In laboratory experiments, mice taking the drugs ran faster and longer than normal mice on treadmill tests. Animals that were given AICAR, one of the two drugs, ran 44 percent longer than untreated animals. The second compound, GW1516, had a more dramatic impact on endurance, but only when combined with exercise.

Ronald M. Evans, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator who led the study, said drugs that mimic exercise could offer potent protection against obesity and related metabolic disorders. They could also help counter the effects of devastating muscle-wasting diseases like muscular dystrophy. Evans and his colleagues, who are at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, published their findings on July 31, 2008, in an advance online publication in the journal Cell.

Concerned about the potential for abuse of the two performance-enhancing drugs, Evans has also developed a test to detect the substances in the blood and urine of athletes who may be looking for way to gain an edge on the competition.

Exercise will still be needed for the development of better coordination. But cardiovascular conditioning and muscle build-up really shouldn't take so much time out of our busy lives. Besides, why use real exercise when drugs can do a better job of making your body fit?

After four weeks of treatment with AICAR, Evans and his colleagues once again challenged sedentary mice to run on the treadmill. They found that mice that had received AICAR were able to run 44 percent longer than untreated mice. "This is a drug that is like pharmacological exercise," Evans says. "After four weeks of receiving the drug, the mice were behaving as if they'd been exercised." In fact, he says, those that got the drug actually ran longer and further than animals that received exercise training.

Read the full article if you are curious about the mechanisms of action of these drugs.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 July 31 10:46 PM  Aging Exercise Studies

Brett Bellmore said at August 1, 2008 4:49 AM:

You're still going to need to do stretching exercises; The effects of those are largely mechanical, short of some pretty sophisticated nanotechnology, I don't see being limber coming in a pill form.

I'm not surprised that exercise in a pill might be even more effective than real exercise; It's well known that exercise involves muscle damage, followed by healing and growth; If you could get the growth without having to heal from the damage, you'd be ahead of the game.

NancyU said at August 1, 2008 8:40 AM:

I want to get some GW1516 & AICAR now for my elderly parents. NOW. They were both very physically active up until a couple of years ago. What aging is doing to them is a crime. Bring on exercise in a pill!

And I'll take some too...

purenoiz said at August 1, 2008 1:34 PM:

Lazy people are inferior, or as my friend would say "shut up! your fat!"

Exercise in a pill, it will probably speed up cancer or something. Or more likely do nothing for humans.
Cell growth out of damage yields a stronger cell. Proper consumption of fish and or w-3 fish oils speeds up recovery.
In this case the journey is the destination.

Brett Bellmore said at August 1, 2008 1:47 PM:

Purnoiz, it's true that while you still have plenty of excess healing capacity, you can damage yourself exercising, and come out stronger in the end. Eventually, of course, you can barely heal the damage with no improvement left over, and still later, you just accellerate your decline.

But even when you're young, all that healing is using up stem cells. Not good.

kurt9 said at August 1, 2008 5:44 PM:

You know, if these is for real, I would probably take it, then still work out four times a week in the gym just as I do now.

averros said at August 1, 2008 8:04 PM:

> Lazy people are inferior, or as my friend would say "shut up! your fat!"

Some of us have better things to do than to waste time doing mindless motions.

Randall Parker said at August 1, 2008 9:32 PM:


Well, with a comment like that I say your pseudonym fits.

Brett Bellmore,

Exercise is a waste of time. We could reduce the wear and tear on our joints if we could get the effects of exercise but with less impact. We could reduce cardiovascular disease more reliably.

Our genes engineer our bodies for optimal function under conditions unlike those we are living in today. We need to develop technologies that adjust us to our other technologies. I see this latest advance as a step in that direction.

David Govett said at August 1, 2008 11:29 PM:

End of the Olympics.

Brett Bellmore said at August 2, 2008 3:41 AM:

I don't disagree that exercise is a waste of time, I just think that stretching exercises are going to be a lot *harder* to put into a pill than strength or endurance exercises.

Bob Badour said at August 2, 2008 1:48 PM:

David Govett,

Correction: End of the Olympics as we know it.

Competing at that level requires more than just exercise for lean bodies and large muscles. It requires considerable training to get the brain to activate muscles for maximum effect.

purenoiz said at August 2, 2008 5:33 PM:

Talk about a group of whiners. Do you live only to play on the computer? Have you ever had a fun time outside. Exercise can be boring if you are lifting weights, alone in a gym. And then their are times when you go out for a 60 mile bike ride with friends and have a good time. Is that a mindless motion, because I've also used it for networking to increase my income and my pleasure in life. Neither of which are a waste.
It seems awful weird to me that a group of people so obsessed with physical improvement and life extension is actually trying to mount an argument against doing what comes naturally to us, movement. But I am guessing the majority of you are thinking of the dead cold weight room, which is mindless, tedious and generally useless.

Yet hoping that our medical community will find a way to bottle up that what is at your feet, is not silly, it's naive. Look at the progress we have made in the "war" against cancer. One of the best life extension techniques developed is earlier detection of cancer. Notice I did not say detection and cure, but detection alone. Which provides a nice way of padding the NCI's numbers into making it look like there has been an improvement when in fact there has been none. If you die from cancer, and 20 years ago they couldn't detect it until 2 years before death, but now they can detect it 6 years before death; I ask you, are you any less dead? And now I read you wanting the same scientific medical community to help you shed pounds and look and feel better. That is like playing Russian roulette with a H&K USP (not a revolver). It is akin to being promised something for nothing the latter is which is what you would receive. It's HOPE, and that is fatal.

So come on guys, go out and have fun, there so many fun activities out there. I prefer mountain biking, I race amateur 2 weekends a month and love it. Ive met 90 I walk my dog during the summer through the city and enjoy the sights, which is primarily sun dresses and or skimpy clothing on the ladies! C'mon (the last and least effective argument), C'MON. And for the safety sallies, there are things you can do that will keep you healthy without injury. Bocce ball, croquet and lawn darts etc. Swimming is easy on the joints, though it doesn't build bones. Which is another point, want to reduce the risk of bone fracture, weight bearing exercises. Why? the stresses on the bone send signals to build the bone up. Can a pill do that, boniva has not lived up to that hype. I like research, I just have zero trust in the pharmaceutical industry.

Liposuction , the lap band and phen phen? Play ball!

John Bailo said at August 3, 2008 10:40 AM:

Do they have a pill that will make me think there are cute girls in spandex exercising in front of me while I'm taking my exercise pill? Otherwise I'll stick to 24 Hour Fitness...

swhitt21 said at May 11, 2009 3:05 PM:

I think everyone is kind of missing the point here... This drug is being developed and tested also to treat a range of diseases. Muscular Dystrophy is noted in the article, and since this was published, GW501516 has been used to prevent and delay Huntington's disease in mice and is now going to clinical trial in humans. This is a terminal, genetic illness. It would be horrible if the funding or progress of this research was curbed because of a fear it will be used by athletes (or lazy people for that matter) to cheat in their sport or as an excuse not to eat healthy and exercise. There are much more important things than competition and vanity. This research is being done to save lives.

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