US scientists move one step closer to an EXERCISE PILL that gives all the benefits of working out without moving a muscle

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • Scientists at Washington University developed the medicine, named SLU-PP-332
  • It could help stave off age-related conditions such as dementia and heart failure
  • READ MORE: Weekend warriors lose just as much weight as regular exercisers 

A new pill could offer the same benefits as exercise, including muscle growth and performance, a study found.

The medicine can mimic the physical boost of a workout and potentially treat ‘couch potato’ conditions like obesity and muscle atrophy.

It could also stave off age-related conditions such as dementia, heart failure and declining kidney function.

After decades of work, scientists at Washington University developed a compound named SLU-PP-332 which activates specialized proteins, known as estrogen-related receptors (ERRs), that are triggered by exercise.

The pill can mimic the physical boost of a workout and potentially treat ‘couch potato’ conditions like obesity and muscle atrophy

Professor Bahaa Elgendy, professor of anesthesiology at Washington University and the project’s main investigator, said: ‘Everyone knows that exercise is super-beneficial for the body and mind, but not everyone can exercise. Having an exercise in a pill could be beneficial to mimic or enhance the effects for people who are ageing, people with certain diseases, or who are facing muscle loss due to other drugs.

‘This could lead to the development of therapeutics for some of the most challenging diseases we are facing nowadays, like neurodegenerative diseases and heart failure.

‘I’m not promoting replacing exercise or anything, but so many people like myself are lazy and don’t like exercise or they’re busy all the time, so they could benefit from these drugs.

‘It has always been heartbreaking for me to see people, especially kids, who cannot move and who suffer from muscle dystrophy and other horrible diseases. I’m not 100 percent sure that this could be a cure for these diseases, but it could at least help some people to improve their quality of life.’

The researchers tested the pills on mice and found they increased a fatigue-resistant type of muscle fiber while improving the animals’ endurance when they ran on a rodent treadmill.

The pills also appear to counter damaging processes that occur in the brain in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Exercise enhances muscle cells’ metabolism and growth, and improves the performance of muscles.

A drug that mimics these impacts could counteract the muscle atrophy and weakness that can take place in people as they age, or are affected by cancer.

Certain genetic conditions can also mean people are unable to carry out physical activity. 

The new pill might also be able to prevent the effects of other drugs, including new weight loss medications Wegovy and Ozempic which cause the loss of muscle as well as the loss of fat, said Professor Elgendy. 

The metabolic changes linked to exercise set off the activation of specialized proteins, known as ERRs, which come in three forms: ERRα, ERRβ and ERRγ.

SLU-PP-332 activates all three forms, including the most difficult target, ERRα.

This ERR regulates the stress-related physiological responses brought on through exercise and other important physiological processes in muscle.

In studies on mice, the team found this compound increased a fatigue-resistant type of muscle fiber while also improving the animals’ endurance when they ran on a rodent treadmill.

The research will be presented at the spring meeting of the American Chemical Society.

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