An “exercise pill” or “obesity pill” has been on the research tables for some time now. Last year, researchers at Harvard claimed they were on their way to developing a fat-burning medication that could “replace the treadmill.” And earlier this year, scientists pinpointed a certain molecule known as “compound 14,” which regulates metabolism in a way that makes people lose weight without working out.

The notion of a magical exercise pill — similar to anti-aging products that claim to be forms of liquid youth — is of course appealing to thousands of people, especially in the U.S., where obesity and diabetes reign. It would be so much easier to pop a pill every day while you’re working long hours at the office, rather than push yourself to spend an hour at the gym.

But a new study examines whether an exercise pill would be effective as a long-term solution to obesity. The study, published in Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, reviewed several studies that had attempted to develop the drug over the course of the past several years. Labs developing have mainly been testing the pills in animals, hoping to see whether they improve skeletal muscle performance and energy use.

The researchers admit that such a pill may be useful in the future — and may even be an achievable goal based on current research. But they also bring up the fact that a pill won’t be able to impact the body in the wide variety of ways that exercise does, as physical activity influences nearly every single bodily system, from digestion to cardiovascular health. The drugs currently in development focus primarily on boosting cellular metabolism, increasing glucose uptake, and turning white fat into brown fat. But these are only partial effects of physical activity, as the others include a sharpened sense of focus, flexibility in muscles, and even protection from depression.

And perhaps there’s the psychological aspect of working out as well. When you complete a run or a workout goal, even if it was tough, you feel a sense of accomplishment. This boosts mental health and self-esteem. Could you get the same effect from a pill? Probably not.

The authors thus conclude that there really is no shortcut for the benefits of exercise. “Clearly people derive many other rewarding experiences from exercise — such as increased cognitive function, bone strength, and improved cardiovascular function,” Ismail Laher, an author of the study, said in the press release. “It is unrealistic to expect that exercise pills will fully be able to substitute for physical exercise — at least not in the immediate future.”

But researchers are still going to continue their development of exercise pills, as they may help people who can’t exercise. “For example, a pill for people with spinal cord injury could be very appealing given the difficulties that these individuals face in exercising due to paralysis — in such patients, a large number of detrimental changes occur in cardiovascular and skeletal muscle function,” Laher said in the press release.

Now that’s a cool way of looking at it: It’s not a pill for the lazy, but rather those who want to workout but can’t. For the rest of us, it looks like we don’t have a shortcut around putting in the hard work on the treadmill quite yet.

Source: Laher I. Exercise Pills: At the Starting Line? Trends in Pharmacological Sciences. 2015.