BOSTON (WHDH) - Getting the benefits of working out without actually having to work out might one day be a possibility.

Researchers at MIT and Harvard said they have mapped out body cells that are modified by working out, which could lead to a medication that mimics the benefits of exercise.

Dr. Manolis Kellis, a professor of computer science at MIT, is one of the senior authors of the recent study.

“What we wanted to know is, how is exercise and diet affecting whole body biology?” Kellis said. “Because one of the things that we know through decades of research is that people who are obese, people who are unhealthy, people who have unhealthy lifestyles, people who don’t exercise – they have much worse prognosis for cancer, for immune disorders like we saw with COVID, for Alzheimer’s – for every different aspect of human health.”

In the study’s trials, researchers studied the impact of exercise and high-fat diets on mice. Kellis said the findings appeared to show that both exercise and diet reprogram the composition of cellular tissue, making way for healthier tissue with exercise or unhealthier tissue without.

The findings could now offer the opportunity for medication to enhance or mimic the benefits of working out.

“The goal is to understand what are not only the cell types and the biological processes, but the specific gene targets and the proteins that we should be developing drugs against,” he explained. “If we were to make a pill, we don’t know where, you know, how to make it, what to target, what to change, how to deliver.”

Scientists at the two universities hope their research could help target obesity. In the United States, more than 40% of the population is considered obese, with nearly 75% considered overweight.

Researchers also say people should still rely on the tried and true methods for a healthy life.

“If you can, eat healthy and exercise – this is the best thing you can do to reprogram your own body, to reprogram your own tissues to a healthier state,” Kellis said.

Human trials for further research are also in the beginning phases.

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