Exercise Pills Are Trying To Keep You From Going To The Gym

Scientists are working on exercise pills that eventually could make going to the gym a thing of the past

Oct 02, 2015 at 3:04 PM ET

Imagine exercise pills—simple drugs that, taken once a day, could perform your workout for you. They’re not on the market yet, but scientists have spent the past few decades messing with compounds that burn fat, renew worn-out cells and improve blood flow, giving hope to couch potatoes everywhere. And taken together, these chemicals and hormones may one day make treadmills a thing of the past, according to a new study in Trends in Pharmacological Sciences.

More Do You Have the Fat Gene?

The world needs exercise pills. Some of the most costly public health menaces in the United States, for instance, stem from our sedentary lifestyles, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. In theory, good ol’ fashioned exercise would help far more than any pill—but only if people actually did it.

Studies suggest that 62 percent of heart disease survivors stick to to a workout regimen one year after nearly dying from lack of exercise. Other studies have found that, while 80 percent of heart disease patients know they should exercise, less than 40 percent maintain any sort of workout regimen. Some patients say they can’t exercise because of their diseases. Others say they simply don’t have the time.

The answer, of course, is an exercise pill—a miracle drug that does the workout for you. For that, we’d need a pill that mimics the major physiological benefits of exercise; a medication that burns fat, forms new blood vessels, changes muscle fibers and reinvigorates old cells. There’s nothing like that on the market yet, but right now number of promising pills are slowly plodding their way through animal trials. Now, success (or failure) in a mouse means nothing whatsoever for human health, but it does give us an idea of where the research is likely to go in the next few years. Here are the top pre-clinical exercise pills: