One day, exercise might be a drug you can pick up at the pharmacy. Researchers from the University of Southampton in the U.K. have developed a molecule that mimics the effects of exercise at the cellular level, tricking cells into thinking they have run out of energy. 

In mice, this molecule, called compound 14, inhibits a metabolism enzyme. This triggers a cellular energy sensor called AMPK, causing the cells to increase their metabolism and uptake of glucose. The cells think they’ve run out of energy, as if the body had been exercising.

As described in the journal Chemistry and Biology, this molecular form of exercise didn’t have much of an impact on normal mice, who had steady glucose and weight levels even when treated with the compound. But for obese mice fed a high-fat diet, the compound lowered above-average glucose levels down to normal, and caused them to lose about 5 percent of their body weight. The researchers suggest the molecule could become a treatment for obesity and type 2 diabetes in humans, allowing diabetics to regain control of their glucose levels.

However, even if the treatment translates to humans, it may not be a panacea for obesity rates, as studies find that eating fewer calories has a bigger impact on weight loss than exercise. And how drug-induced cellular exercise affects other health factors normally associated with hitting the gym, like reduced dementia risk, has yet to be seen. But we can all dream of a future where diabetes (which affects 9 percent of the U.S. population) is easily treatable with an exercise pill. And maybe one day there will be a pill to help lazy Netflixers get fake exercise, too. 

[h/t: Washington Post]