Now, it seems you can skip the gym and just take a pill instead.
Researchers at the Leeds Institute of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine have devised a pill containing a protein responsible for the cardiovascular effects of exercise. Just one dose and your body starts to get its heart pumping and blood flowing in anticipation of explosive movement — all without breaking a sweat.
How does it do it? Simple: It increases blood flow and widens blood vessels. There’s a protein, termed “Piezo 1” by the scientists, that boosts blood flow to the brain and major muscle groups. This phenomenon is partly responsible for the beneficial effects of daily movement.
An increase in blood flow is in large part the reason for the recommended 30 daily minutes of movement: It improves heart health, lowers cholesterol, and lowers risk for stroke, heart disease, and cancer.
The pill itself doesn’t have this exercise-induced protein, but instead contains a different protein called “Yoda 1,” a seemingly miraculous compound that mimics Piezo 1’s effects, all from the comfort of your couch.
A world where people don’t exercise is a frightening possibility — in future years, there very well may be an available drug that could mimic the effort of exercise. So should Equinox and other gym conglomerates start getting worried? In short: no. Firstly, the pill has yet to be tested on human subjects, meaning that it has a long road before it’s released on the market for general consumption. The fact that mice get a stimulating kick from the compound could be entirely meaningless for humans.
And second, the pill fails to account for the other physical and mental benefits of exercise such as strength gain, endurance building, and mental stamina. The researchers did not mean for this pill to act as a substitute for the gym. Rather, they see the pill as a promising development for people who struggle to attain movement due to disabilities or injury; it could provide a method of maintaining heart health without the daily 30 minutes of movement.
“It may be that by understanding the working of the Yoda1 experimental molecule on the Piezo1 protein, we can move a step closer to having a drug that can help control some major chronic conditions,” said lead researcher David Beech.
With that hope in mind, the British Heart Foundation has funded further research on the compound and its effects.
According to Beech, Yoda 1 “could be taken in addition to a walk, for instance, so that a walk becomes more like a run.” An appealing option for those who hate running, sure — but we don’t recommend you consider cutting out your workout in exchange for some blood flow. If you hate the workouts you’re doing, there are other fun ways to get your daily bout of exercise in without it feeling like torture.