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Researchers may have found exercise benefits in a pill

Pennington Biomedical research scientists are working on a way to get the benefits of a...
Pennington Biomedical research scientists are working on a way to get the benefits of a 30-minute workout in a pill.(WAFB)
Published: Feb. 2, 2022 at 4:47 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Everyone knows exercise makes you healthy but what if you could get the benefits of a 30-minute workout in a pill?

It’s not some fad diet or drop weight quick gimmick. It’s actual clinical research going on right now at LSU and the results look promising.

“What we’re really focused on is trying to understand what makes exercise healthy,” said Chris Axelrod, an exercise physiologist. “What are the actual biological components that make our bodies healthier?”

A little sweat is good for you. Exercise builds muscle and improves your heart. But are there health benefits beyond your muscles? Axelrod is leading the charge to find out.

“That’s what we’re really interested in. How exercise affects our body as a whole. How it affects our mind. How it affects each of our individual organs,” explained Axelrod.

To answer that question, you have to get out of the gym and into the petri dish.

Pennington Biomedical research scientists grew muscles in a petri dish and forced them to exercise with a small electric shock.

“When you contract your muscle ... when you move your muscle hard enough, it makes a number of substances that are released from the muscle and communicate with other parts of your body,” added Axelrod.

It turns out those conversations have real benefits for everyone listening in, especially when it comes to obesity and diabetes.

“We could expose the cells to excess fat, similar to what we would see in a person with obesity, and we find that it protects them against cellular damage,” noted Axelrod.

Axelrod said it’s still a ways down the road but this discovery could lead to a pill that provides some of the same benefits of exercise, not just for obesity, but for kidney or liver function, brain health, and your body’s overall wellbeing.

“The idea that we can take specific proteins that are produced by exercise and treat diabetes with those proteins is revolutionary,” pointed out Axelrod.

But don’t ditch your gym shorts just yet. Axelrod said exercise in a pill won’t replace exercise.

“Exercise is an unreplaceable stimulus from a whole-body level. Exercise in a pill is going to look more like how can we mimic specific effects of exercise to manage specific health benefits rather than replacing exercise completely,” said Axelrod.

He also said this could be a big breakthrough for people who are unable to exercise due to physical impairments of medical limitations.

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