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Pill May Soon Give All the Benefits of Exercise, Researchers Say

Update Date: Jul 18, 2013 04:49 AM EDT

Exercise in a pill? That may sound too good to be true, but scientists say they are close to developing g a drug that gives us the benefits of exercising without having to actually move a muscle.

Scientists at both Washington University and Saint Louis University are researching the enticing possibility of gaining the benefits of exercise by taking a pill - and skipping the sweat, according to the study appears this week in Nature Medicine.

The studies found that a compound affected levels of a protein called REV-ERB in muscles - which has been shown to boost metabolism, normalize cholesterol levels and affect how much we sleep.

The current research - performed at the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida -found a deficiency on a molecular level of REV-ERB-α resulted in the deactivation of key signaling pathways. Otherwise, an over-expression of REV-ERB-α (in vivo) increased respiratory capacity - improving skeletal muscle function.

According to a New York Times report, the researchers found that when their compound was injected into obese mice, it helped them lose weight - even if they were on a high-fat diet - and improved their cholesterol levels.

The mice that were injected with the mixture began using more oxygen throughout the day and expending about 5 per cent more energy than untreated mice, even though they were not more active compared to the other animals.

The drug "certainly seems to act as an exercise mimic," said co-author Thomas Burris, now the chairman of the department of pharmacological and physiological science at St. Louis University School of Medicine.

It is still unclear when this pill could be made available for human consumption and if whether increasing levels of REV-ERB in healthy people is possible.

"I have been told" by other scientists who have published data about potential exercise pills "to expect some weird phone calls" from athletes and their support crew, Dr. Burris said.

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