An exercise pill could be a possibility one day soon, scientists have claimed.
Experts have found that boosting levels of a liver protein mimics the benefits of exercising, and believe this method could be used to create a pill. This will come as welcome news to anyone struggling to maintain a regular workout regime.
"If there were a drug that produced the same brain benefits as exercise, everyone would be taking it," senior author Dr Saul Villeda, an assistant professor in the departments of Anatomy and of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation at Science University of California, San Francisco, said.
"Now our study suggests that at least some of these benefits might one day be available in pill form."
It is well known that staying active protects the brain from age-related diseases - but many elderly people are unable to exercise due to health problems. Scientists have spent years searching for an alternative solution to help people keep fit.
The study, which was published in Science journal, took blood from ageing mice who exercised regularly and transferred it to sedentary mice. After four weeks the less active mice showed similar levels of improvement in memory and learning to the exercising mice.
Higher production of neurons in the hippocampus, the area of the brain dealing with learning and memory, was detected. Researchers genetically engineered the livers of mice to overproduce the protein Gpld1 before testing again for learning and memory. Three weeks of this treatment produced results similar to six weeks of exercise.
"To be honest, I didn't expect to succeed in finding a single molecule that could account for so much of the benefits of exercise on the brain," Villeda said. "When I saw these data, I was completely floored."