18/07/2013 07:10 BST | Updated 18/07/2013 07:10 BST

Could This Pill Give You All The Benefits Of Exercising Without The Grunt Work?

It's the sort of news that will have government health officials slapping their palms to their foreheads, but two newly published studies are looking into the possibility that we might be able to get all the health benefits of exercise in a pill.

A new study shows that a certain compound can affect the levels of a protein called REV-ERB in muscles, which affects how much we sleep, helps boost our metabolism and neutralises levels of cholesterol in the body.

exercise tired

The New York Times reported that the new study - which appears in Nature Medicine - involved researchers at the Scripps Research Institute injecting the compound into obese mice. Subsequently, the animals lost weight and improved their levels of cholesterol even on a high fat diet.

What the researchers also noticed was that the mice use more oxygen and expended more energy. In short, the drug was providing them with the effects of a workout.

This is not the first time 'exercise in a pill' has been touted. Scientists at Harvard Medical School claimed they created a complete workout in pill form. Men's Fitness reported: "According to researchers, they found a way to isolate irisin, a natural hormone in muscles that makes your body burn calories and produce more "brown fat" (good fat that actually aids in weight loss)."

The obvious concerns about such a pill is that it may encourage people to take the easy way out of doing exercise. The NHS guidelines currently recommend adults have 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week and at present, we are currently in the grip of an obesity crisis.

exercise tired

Moreover, the study did not indicate whether the compound encourages the release of mood-enhancing endorphins such as serotonin, which is one of the key benefits of doing a workout.

One of the key benefits of exercise is that it increases the number of mitochondria, which are the cellular structures that help generate energy. In a separate part of the experiment, scientists found that when they added the compound to isolated muscles in the mice, it increased the amount of the protein REV-ERB and the cells produced a lot of mitochondria.

If such a pill were created, it would have to be heavily regulated, and if it were not available on the NHS, this would greatly impact the key group who can benefit from such a pill - disabled people.

Co-author Thomas Burris, now the chairman of the department of pharmacological and physiological science at St Louis University School of Medicine said: "It is not inconceivable that at some point in the future, such a drug might allow people, especially those who are disabled or can’t otherwise exercise, to enjoy the health benefits of endurance without the exertion."