since 1997, the world's premier FREE website for learners + teachers of English

Reading Exercise: Fitness Pill

level: intermediate

Do you hate going to the gym or exercising? Have you heard of the fitness pill? Find out all about it in the reading practice exercise below. You can find the meaning of the words in bold in the vocabulary list under the text, and you can check your understanding by doing the Fitness Pill Quiz.

These days there are pills for just about everything. If you can't sleep, take a pill. If you're sad, take a pill. But what if someone's overweight or lacks fitness and doesn't have time to exercise? There may soon be a pill for those people too. Scientists have found a drug known as GW501516 that could provide the same benefits as exercise. According to a BBC report, the so-called "fitness pill" containing this drug will "build muscle, increase stamina, and even burn fat."

Would you take a pill if it meant you no longer needed the treadmill? Researchers have found that mice with no previous training can run much longer distances after taking these pills. Evidence also suggests that humans who take the pills will be able to build up their muscles as well. In addition, people who take the pills and also start exercising will become even stronger.

Some researchers think the fitness pill will also have medical uses in certain situations. It could benefit people who can't get out of bed due to ill health. It could also benefit people with diabetes and those with diseases that cause muscle-wasting. Other researchers believe the drug could also benefit the average adult. Most adults say they don't have enough spare time to do the 40 minutes of daily exercise that doctors recommend. For these people, a fitness pill could be the best solution.

Many people in the world of sports are concerned about the fitness pill, however. Some fear that athletes will be tempted to use it as a performance-enhancing drug. Even though the pill has still not been approved for human use, some athletes may already be taking it. Top athletes already go through extensive drug testing before national and international events. The world-famous swimmer and Olympic gold-medalist Michael Phelps offered to go through extra drug testing before the 2008 Olympics. He knew that many people would think his amazing strength and stamina came from using performance-enhancing drugs, and he wanted to prove that it came from hard work and training alone.


Word Meaning
approve verb to give official permission (esp. of a government or other authority)
benefit noun a good or positive effect something has
benefit verb to get a good or positive effect from something
drug noun a substance that's taken to change one's normal physical or mental state
drug testing noun the checking of blood for illegal drugs or banned substances
evidence noun a fact that proves or supports a belief
fitness noun good physical condition that comes from exercising
ill health noun poor physical health; sickness
muscle noun part in an arm, leg, finger, etc. that makes it move
overweight adj being too heavy or weighing more than you should
performance-enhancing adj. (of drugs) able to improve one's performance or chance of winning
pill noun a small tablet that's swallowed, esp. one containing medicine or a drug
previous adj having happened before; preceding
spare time noun free time; time that hasn't been scheduled for something
stamina noun the strength to do something like exercise or work for a long time
training noun the process of preparing for a sporting event
treadmill noun a machine that you run on