A pill that creates the desire to exercise?

By Melissa Breyer

Scientists have discovered a compound that could make sit-ups and StairMasters as attractive as snacks and the sofa.


More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese. Obesity-related conditions (heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetesand certain types of cancer) comprise the nation’s leading causes of death. When it comes to the competition between food and exercise, food clearly wins the blue ribbon.

But it’s not for lack of desire. Type in “motivation to exercise” in Google and prepare yourself for 61,900,000 results. It’s just hard to get into the rhythm of going to the gym. So hard, in fact, that people often opt for wacky weight loss fads (diet goggles, anyone?) and questionable diets instead (hello, feeding tube diet). Or, they simply surrender to obesity.
But as researchers are struggling to create safe and effective weight loss drugs, what if there was a pill to make you want to work out? As science fiction seemingly comes to life, it may become a reality. A team of Swiss researchers found that when a hormone in the brain called erythropoietin (Epo) was elevated in mice, the mice were more motivated to exercise.
“Here we show that Epo increases the motivation to exercise,” said Max Gassmann, D.V.M., a researcher involved in the work from the Institute of Veterinary Physiology, Vetsuisse-Faculty and Zurich Center for Integrative Human Physiology at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.
Pop a pill and champ at the bit to hit the gym? This would have remarkable benefits for a wide range of health problems — obesity, obviously, but also mental health disorders for which exercise is known to improve symptoms.
“If you can’t put exercise in a pill, then maybe you can put the motivation to exercise in a pill instead,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal, which published the research. “As more and more people become overweight and obese, we must attack the problem from all angles. Maybe the day will come when gyms are as easily found as fast-food restaurants.”
Now if they can just come up with a pill that motivates you to clean the house.