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Pills that replace exercise go too far

When I read this morning that professors at University of Colorado are working to develop supplements that mimic the effects of exercise, I thought that our pill-crazy and couch-potato culture had gone way too far. A tablet to replace a walk in a park? An effervescent powder instead of a ski down untracked powder? A capsule over sharing a bike ride with your child? Seriously?

Admittedly, the future pill could have some worthy applications. The elderly and the disabled, who may have physical limitations, could reap heart-health benefits that they might otherwise not be able to get. And the pill could complement one’s exercise routine, perhaps like a multivitamin can work as an insurance policy for an imperfect diet.

But no pill will replace the mental and physical buzz I get from real-life physical activities. Just like no supplement will supplant a dinner of seared elk steaks (courtesy of my hunter husband), roasted root vegetables and arugula salad. I think many of you will agree that moving a body—and eating—are actually fun. If I took a pill in place of these activities, I would maybe gain a boost in heart health, but I'd lose out on so much more.

So, researchers, please do work on your exercise-replacement supplement, but keep in perspective who should be the target audience--not those looking for a pill to replace life, but those who really need extra help improving their health and who may be physically incapable of exercise. And when supplement manufacturers eventually market these forthcoming pills and retailers sell them, I hope they’ll do the same.

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