Backlash against the "Exercise Pill"

I never liked scientists.

They are always concerned with facts and truth and crushing my dreams of having a rippling set of abs without breaking a sweat.

The Exercise Pill

A few days ago, a new scientific study claimed that scientists had identified two drugs that promise to drastically reduce body fat while at the same time improving aerobic performance, lowering blood sugar and improving insulin sensitivity.

In essence, these drugs (AICAR and GW1516) provide all of the benefits of exercise without any of the sweaty side effects.

For all the science geeks out there, the pills work by activating a genetic switch known as PPAR delta.

According to the lead researcher, “AICAR signals the cell that it has burned off energy and needs to generate more. It is pretty much pharmacological exercise”.

Ergo, the “Exercise Pill”.

And Now for the Cold Shower of Truth…

In an interview with Science Daily, Dr. Frank Booth says that the “exercise pill” study did not test all of the commonly known benefits of exercise and taking the pill cannot be considered a replacement for exercise.

Damn you Dr. Booth!!! But wait, it gets worse.

He says that while the researchers have demonstrated that AICAR and GW1516 have been shown to enhance training adaptation or even to increase endurance without exercise, he cautions that some of the commonly known benefits of exercise were not tested. These include:

  • Decreased resting and submaximal exercise heart rate
  • Increased heart stroke volume at all exercise work loads
  • Increased maximal exercise cardiac output
  • Lower blood pressure and arterial stiffness
  • Increased aerobic capacity
  • Increased strength and cross-sectional area of skeletal muscle
  • Delayed loss of muscle mass and strength with aging and physical frailty
  • Improved balance and coordination
  • Improved flexibility
  • Reduced osteoporosis
  • Reduced joint stress and back pain
  • Decreased gallstone disease
  • Improved endothelial function
  • Decreased incidence of myocardial ischemia
  • Less myocardial damage from ischemia
  • Decreased oxidative stress
  • Decreased inflammation
  • Improved immune function
  • Decreased liver steatosis and fatty liver disease
  • Improved insulin sensitivity and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Less likelihood of depression, anxiety, stress and poor psychological well-being
  • Ameliorating hyperlipidemia: lower total cholesterol, higher HDL, and decreased blood triglycerides
  • Improved cognitive function in the elderly
  • Increased blood flow and neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus of the hypothalamus
  • Prevention of the loss of brain volume in the elderly
  • Delay in decline of physiological reserve in organ systems with aging

And wait, he still isn’t finished slamming my dear, sweet Exercise Pill…

The prevention of the increased risk of chronic disease produced by lifelong physical inactivity also was not tested in the Cell paper. According to Katzmarzyk & Janssen (Can J Appl Physiol 29:90, 2004), human physical activity decreases the risk of:

  • Coronary artery disease (decreases risk by 45 percent)
  • Stroke (decreases risk by 60 percent)
  • Hypertension (decreases risk by 30 percent)
  • Colon cancer (decreases risk by 41 percent)
  • Breast cancer (decreases risk by 30 percent)
  • Type 2 diabetes (decreases risk by 50 percent)
  • Osteoporosis (decreases risk by 59 percent)

And as if that wasn’t enough, Booth then goes on to criticize the media for jumping the gun on this topic by saying that “the drugs used in the Cell paper were not conclusively proven to mimic exercise, contrary to media reports”.

Booth feels that my precious Exercise Pills “only partially imitate exercise and in order for any “exercise pill” to replace physical activity, the pill must be polygenic, or control many genes at once”.


My conclusion is that Dr. Booth, with his more than 40 years of research experience in exercise and physical inactivity adaptations, and his scientific method and his common sense is a mean, mean man.

That’s right, I said it. He’s Mean!!! Probably right, but mean nonetheless.

The kind of guy that tells kids there is no Santa Claus or Easter Bunny. Jerk.

This article was adapted from materials provided by:

University of Missouri-Columbia. “‘Exercise Pill’ Is No Replacement For Real Exercise, Expert Cautions.” ScienceDaily 5 August 2008. 6 August 2008 <­/releases/2008/08/080805124013.htm>.