The benefits of exercise are well documented. Your blood pressure goes down! You build muscle! You regulate your energy levels and get that lovely burst of endorphins! But oh man, if only we could just do that without huffing and puffing out on the track/bike/assorted other exercise machines, sweating through our casual-chic workout clothes (or, y’know, that free t-shirt you got from a volunteer event five years ago). Turns out, scientists have been thinking about that too. Meet: The exercise pill.

OK, so the exercise pill is still in the verrry early stages of research and testing, but here’s what we know so far. Scientists at the University of Sydney in Australia studied the changes that happened to the human body during and after exercise, specifically in protein cells. Now that they have a comprehensive look at those changes, they’re engineering a pill to mimic the thousands of cell interactions that occur and thus “convert” into changes in the body.

In effect: A way to reap the benefits of exercise, without having to actually head to the gym or hit the pavement. In fact, the University of Sydney’s exercise pill research is part of a long line of research into how to improve cell metabolism and potentially combat the effects of diseases like obesity and Type II diabetes. But lest you think this means that you can put down the running shoes/weights/yoga mat forever, not so fast.

While yes, the exercise pill and other treatments presumably like it are in the works, their most practical and immediate application will likely be for people whose physical functions are limited or diminished, such as for people who’ve suffered from strokes. Meaning that for those of us who are physically able to exercise, that physical exertion will still be the best way to, well, exercise. And notice that the pill researchers say nothing about weight loss or body shaping: The exercise pill is very much being designed to provide only a specific function of exercise for the body.

That said, it’s pretty amazing that something like the exercise pill can even be under research. A few decades ago, such a thing would’ve been unimaginable. But as sci-fi legend Arthur C. Clarke once put it, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Word; and it’s only a matter of time before science astounds us yet again.

Image courtesy of NBC.