A pill could replace exercise – but there are some downsides

Some of us just can’t find the time or willpower for exercise. Could a pill bring us all the benefits of a session at the gym?

Will it ever be possible to replace exercise with a pill – and would we even want to?

Some researchers are trying to replicate all the proven benefits of physical activity on human health with a drug. Research has already shown that when sedentary mice are given exercise-enhancing drugs, they burn more calories and lose more weight than control animals. They can also run on a treadmill for much longer.  

How do the drugs work? They trick cells into working harder, increasing their metabolism and uptake of glucose.

But the question is, will human cells work the same way? And will it give us all the benefits of working up a sweat?

BBC Future spoke to Dr John Hawley at the Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research at the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne. Watch the video above to find out the positive things ‘exercise in a pill’ just might not be able to replace.

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