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post : Exercise: As easy as taking a pill?

Exercise: As easy as taking a pill?

By Dr. Jerry Mixon November 6, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Recently there have been several reports making the rounds on the various news outlets of a new drug called 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide-1-β-d-riboside (or AICAR to normal people) that seems to mimic the effects of exercise…at least it does in rats. The rats were able to build muscle, gain endurance, and lose weight. Even their ability to metabolize sugar was improved when they took AICAR. Click here to read the study.

A lot of people will have knee jerk skepticism that any drug can ever take the place of good old fashioned exercise. I, however, would not be one of them.  Now, I’m not saying that AICAR is necessarily going to replace the need for exercise but sooner or later something probably will.  After all, exercise fundamentally just sets off a series of bio-chemical changes in our bodies that have an awful lot of beneficial effects on us. There’s no reason why one day we couldn’t artificially mimic those changes.

I may be a hopeless optimist, but I believe that fundamentally the universe is knowable.  I believe that slowly but surely the human body will continue to yield its secrets to patient methodical research.  I believe the day will come when virtually any virus or bacteria can be defeated, when damaged limbs and organs can be easily replaced, when the ravages of time and gravity can be completely reversed, and I even believe that there are people alive today who will live to see that day arrive. 

Because I believe all of this, I think AICAR shows great promise. I see no evil in people who are able to be strong and healthy without it being a constant struggle, particularly in a society where the increasing need for productivity requires periods of sedentary living for larger numbers of us. 

However, before you cancel your gym membership and throw away your running shoes, AICAR is years away from human trials. When human trials begin, it may not have the same benefits for people that it has on rats. Assuming it does have those same benefits, it still doesn’t mean AICAR will provide all the benefits for the prevention of cancer and other diseases that exercise does. Plus, there is the issue of evaluating its long term safety. 

The time is surely coming when AICAR or some other drug like it will make gym’s obsolete but that time is probably still decades away.  Luckily, for those of us who are hoping to live long enough to see that time, there are ways we can get all the benefits of what AICAR hopes to eventually provide…we call it “exercise.”

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