The most recent podcast episode of Freakonomics talks about the benefits of exercise, and implications of an exercise-replacing drug. One guest, Robert M Evans, a scientist who works at the Salk Institute, invented a drug, which was tested on mice, that essentially gave the mice effects of exercise (e.g, weight loss, increased blood flow) by expressing or stimulating hormone receptors.
Dr. Evans is named on patent applications US20190151416A1 and US20190084939A1, which are both patent applications (as opposed to granted patents) that describe compounds that can address metabolic diseases, obesity, and diabetes. Given that I'm not an expert in the bio/chemistry fields, I have no idea if these patent applications include 'exercise pill' technology, but they seem to be at least related.
From Dr. Evan's bio on the Salk Website:
A major achievement in Evans' lab was the discovery of a large family of molecules, called nuclear hormone receptors, which respond to various steroid hormones, vitamin A and thyroid hormones. These hormones help control sugar, salt, calcium and fat metabolism, affecting our daily health as well as treatment of disease. The receptors Evans discovered are primary targets in the treatment of breast cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer and leukemia, as well as osteoporosis and asthma.
In addition, Evans' studies led to a new class of PPAR delta drugs called exercise mimetics, which promote the benefits of fitness without the need to train. Exercise mimetics represent an important advance in addressing problems arising from excess weight and obesity, such as frailty, muscular dystrophy and type 2 diabetes.
Some are concerned that exercise pill technology might give people a 'license' to ditch the gym and salad. I'll continue to keep it real with my once-a-month push-up routine.