A number of pharmaceutical companies are in a race to be the first to market an exercise pill that mimics at least some of the physical benefits of exercise in humans. Ismail Laher of the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and colleagues examined the progress toward an exercise pill to date in the edition of the journal Trends in Pharmacological Sciences. The study indicates that an exercise pill for the mass market is not going to be available in the short term.
The major benefit of an exercise pill is that the pill produces a similar reaction in muscle tissue that exercise does. The pills that are presently being tested in animals do not produce all of the benefits of exercise. The study concludes that it is unrealistic to expect that all of the benefits of exercise like improved cognitive function, increased bone strength, or improved cardiac function will be possible with any exercise pill presently in development. Side effects are not known completely at present and most probably will be diminished or not reported by the companies that are developing the exercise pills.
While pharmaceutical developers hope to target overweight and obese people with an exercise pill as well as tap into the athletic market, the expectations of the benefits have thus far been extremely exaggerated by the marketing efforts of the companies that are developing the pills. Clinical evidence suggests the exercise pills will have benefit for people that have been immobilized either temporarily or permanently be injury or disease in preventing muscular atrophy. The exercise pill has already been found to have been used illegally to enhance performance by one athlete in a cycling competition in 2013. The abuse of the exercise pill in human and animal athletes is expected to increase.