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May 3, 2017

‘Exercise drug’ could get you fit without working out

If there’s one thing that people trying to get in better shape are used to hearing, it’s that there is no miracle cure, no shortcut to physical fitness and no way to avoid the hard work and the trips to the gym needed to lose weight, put on muscle, and improve your overall health.

Or is there? New research published this week in the journal Cell Metabolism reveals that mice who were given a specific compound could increase the amount of time that they could run by a full 100 minutes – without any prior preparation or training, according to The Verge.

In their new study, scientists from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California reported that by giving the mice a small-molecule drug called GW1516, they could activate a gene known as PPAR delta that enables the rodents to run for longer periods of time without becoming tired.

Furthermore, the website said, activating this gene also makes it more difficult for the creatures to gain weight and improves their insulin response, making them less likely to become diabetic. Since normal exercise activates the PPAR delta gene, the GW1516 compound could potentially mimic the effects of a trip to the gym – without all that hard work and sweating.

“In previous studies, we’ve needed to exercise the mice. In this study, we show that no exercise is needed,” co-corresponding author Ronald Evans, Director of the Gene Expression Laboratory as well as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator at the Salk Institute, explained to the San Diego Union Tribune on Tuesday.

Compound could benefit those with heart issues, other limitations

Evans and his colleagues have been studying PPAR delta for more than two decades, and found that it is a transcription factor that activates pathways involved with endurance training. The new study has found that the pathway can also be activated by administering the GW1516 compound, at least in mice, and could potentially benefit people who have difficulty exercising.

More than just offering a way for couch potatoes to avoid hard work, however, the study authors believe that GW1516 could help people with cardiovascular conditions and other physical issues hampering their ability to work out. It could increase their endurance, and allow them to exercise for longer periods of time than their limitations would otherwise permit, The Verge added.

Sedentary mice who were given the compound were found to have increased fat oxidation levels in their muscles, the researchers explained, and the effects of hypoglycemia (blood glucose loss) on the brain were delayed. This made it possible for the rodents to increase how long they spent working out on a treadmill from 160 minutes to 270 minutes – with no endurance training.

Evans said that the study reveals that there is “more than one way” to move the proverbial “wall” that athletes encounter during length training sessions. “The standard method is to train; you will improve a bit with each run. But we've shown improvement can happen without expending the energy that otherwise would be needed to get to this point.”

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