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Can you really skip the treadmill with the exercise pill?

Seth Wenig/AP

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Southern Californians love to exercise, but working out can be a drag. Even for those of us who crave a good sweat in a spin class, it always takes up valuable time and sometimes results in injury.

But what if you could get all the benefits of exercise just by taking a pill? A number of scientists are working on such a drug, including biologist Ron Evans at San Diego's Salk Institute.

Take Two sits down with Nicola Twilley, who wrote about the 'miracle' pill in the New Yorker this week.

Interview Highlights

Benefit of the drug

It's mostly an endurance benefit. You could run further, faster, longer. It helps with your insulin levels, blood pressure, cholesterol, and muscle composition. You'll start to develop muscles like that of an endurance runner. It's what happens naturally during exercise, but this drug can make that happen too. 

Couch potato mouse vs. Lance Armstrong mouse

Two sets of mice were fed the laboratory standard Western diet. One set was the controlled group - the couch potatoes. Another was given this drug - the Lance Armstrongs. The couch potato mouse was greasy, its hair was thinning, and it was clearly not in the best shape. On the other hand, the Lance Armstrong mouse was lean, tense, and tout. It twitched, and its eyes were shiny. 

Who's the right audience

This is mostly developed for people who really need it, people like Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients. It's a terrible muscle wasting disease with no cure, and the average age of death is 26. If this helps the patients, it may be really worth it. Other candidates in the future include people recovering from surgery, people on a ventilator, maybe even astronauts who lose an tremendous amount of muscle in space. 

Does it replace real exercise? 

No, no, no, no, no!  Exercise clears your mind. It gives you space to think, it takes your mind off of your other problems. There's the serotonin and the boost to your well-being. There's a social aspect of exercise. There are so many benefits of working out no single chemical can provide. One scientist wants to make exercise more compelling. If it's as compelling as video games, more people will do it. 

(Interview has been edited for clarity)

To hear when the drug will become available on the market, click on the blue media player above.