For those living with spinal cord injuries and illnesses such as stroke and obesity, exercise pills could mimic some of the muscular benefits gained by a trip to the gym, says one UBC professor.
However, the emotional and cognitive benefits of exercise are harder to achieve without an old-fashioned workout, which means able-bodied adults may want to think twice before abandoning their workout plans, according to Ismail Laher, UBC Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Pharmacology and Therapeutics.
For Vancouver-based bodybuilder, coach and fitness blogger Samantha Shorkey, her hopes are that people will not forget about the positive mental benefits that come with regular exercise.
“I’m not really sure if I buy that this works… If this pill does produce the same high that you get from exercise, than I think people will love it. But it could also pose risks,” Shorkey says.
Laher agrees with Shorkey. “Exercise is probably the best medicine you’ll ever have that you don’t need to pay for,” he says.
Thus far, it is yet to be revealed how an exercise pill can offer the same benefits to the brain as exercise. In the meantime, researchers remain hopeful the pill will prevent muscle atrophy in those with limited mobility.
“The benefits will really be for people who are paralyzed, people with strokes, people with spinal cord injuries and amputations. These people are losing muscle tone…but we still don’t know if these pills will make physiotherapy more successful,” says Laher.
In terms of safety and effectiveness of the pills, Laher adds that this information will take time to gather.
“It will be a minimum of 10 years, probably longer,” he says.
In the meantime, Shorkey says that although she’s skeptical about “quick-fix” pills on the market, she would try a new product herself before she recommends a product on her blog.
“As a trainer and coach, I would like to see more studies before I promote anything…and I would try it for myself before I would recommend it to anybody,” she says.