There are weight-loss drugs that suppress appetite and multiple research groups looking into exercise pills to strengthen muscles and burn fat, yet somehow no one has invented an elixir that makes people actually enjoy working out, and thereby reap the other mental and physical benefits of breaking a sweat that you simply can’t bottle. Now, one exercise physiologist argues that we have two such drugs — but we’re not really using them for this purpose.
For a new paper published in the journal Sports Medicine, Samuele Marcora, Ph.D., says that because time and exertion are the biggest barriers to exercise, caffeine or psychoactive drugs like Ritalin could reduce the perceived difficulty of working out and thereby help people keep up their routines. These mood- and perception-altering drugs could help people with low motivation, as well as those who consider exercise difficult because they’re overweight or just drained after work. (He notes that the majority of elite athletes have caffeine before or during competitions — though we don’t advise taking supplements, which are totally unregulated. Coffee and caffeinated energy gels or chews will do the trick.)
Marcora, who’s the director of research at the University of Kent’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, says his proposal “may at first seem a drastic or even unethical intervention” given doping in sports, but he argues that since physical inactivity can be twice as deadly as obesity, we should be treating it like we do other ailments. Just don’t try to tell your doctor that you count molly-fueled dance parties as workouts.