Exercise motivation hormone discovered

06:30 AEST Fri Jun 15 2012
Kimberly Gillan, MSN NZ
There could soon be a pill that will keep you exercising
There could soon be a pill that will keep you exercising (Thinkstock)

Want to exercise for harder and longer? There could soon be a pill that will keep you going.

Researchers from the University of Zurich in Switzerland have discovered the human hormone erythropoietin — commonly known as EPO — motivated mice to run faster.

They compared three groups of mice — one group had no treatment, the next were injected with human EPO and the third were genetically modified to produce human EPO.

The scientists discovered the two groups using human EPO ran faster and longer than the non-EPO group.

“Here we show that EPO increases the motivation to exercise,” team researcher Max Gassmann said. “Most probably, EPO has a general effect on a person's mood and might be used in patients suffering from depression and related diseases.”

The researchers said EPO could also be used to help people with obesity and Alzheimer's because physical activity is known to alleviate symptoms.

Jarrod Meerkin, spokesperson for Exercise and Sports Science Australia, says artificial EPO, a drug that is used to treat people with kidney disease, cancer and HIV, is on the banned drug list for athletes.

“It increases the amount of red blood cells so you can carry more oxygen so you can then exercise for longer,” he explains.

This study looked at increasing people's naturally produced EPO, which works without elevating red blood cells.

Meerkin says the research is interesting, but warns it's not a guaranteed weight loss solution.

“I see so many people absolutely bust their backside six or seven days a week and still have difficulties losing fat tissue — the drug isn't going to help with the diet side,” he says.

“A lot of the time, we find that people who exercise harder get hungrier and do tend to eat a bit more as well. [It's not automatically] going to assist them with fat loss.”

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