An ‘exercise pill’ is closer to being a reality than you think

Researchers from the University of Sydney have mapped the effects exercise has on our bodies at a molecular level, creating an ‘exercise blueprint’ which they say could be mimicked by drugs.

The research, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, has uncovered over 1,000 molecular changes that occur in our muscles when we exercise, providing for the first time a comprehensive understanding of the changes that take place.

Professor David James, head of the research group, said:

‘Exercise is the most powerful therapy for many human diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and neurological disorders. However, for many people, exercise isn’t a viable treatment option. This means it is essential we find ways of developing drugs that mimic the benefits of exercise.’

The researchers analysed muscle tissue from four untrained, healthy males following ten minutes of high-intensity exercise. Using an analytical chemistry technique known as mass spectrometry the researchers discovered that short periods of intense exercise trigger more than 1,000 changes. The majority of these changes were not previously associated with exercise.

The study’s co-author, Dr Nolan Hoffman, said:

‘Exercise produces an extremely complex, cascading set of responses within human muscle. It plays an essential role in controlling energy metabolism and insulin sensitivity. While scientists have long suspected that exercise causes a complicated series of changes to human muscle, this is the first time we have been able to map exactly what happens.

‘This is a major breakthrough, as it allows scientists to use this information to design a drug that mimics the true beneficial changes caused by exercise.’