The Jetsons had a pill for just about everything. But George still had to walk Astro on an apparatus that looked an awful lot like a space treadmill to get their exercise in. Well, we may soon be one up on that futuristic family as researchers have found information that may lead to what some are calling “exercise in a bottle.”

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas have found a biochemical pathway in muscle cells responsible for generating many of the beneficial effects of regular exercise. The discovery identifies targets for the discovery of new drugs that could improve the quality of life in people suffering from chronic illness who could benefit from aerobic exercise, but are unable to perform the amount of exercise necessary to produce the desired effects, said R. Sanders Williams, M.D., dean of the Duke University School of Medicine and senior author of the study that appears in the April 12 issue of the journal Science.

Drugs that stimulate this pathway also could reproduce health benefits of exercise that help to prevent diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“We think this discovery could lead to the synthesis of new drugs that will allow individuals to acquire the health benefits of regular exercise, even if they cannot exercise. It has the potential to improve the lives of patients with heart failure, pulmonary disease, renal failure, diabetes and other chronic diseases,” Williams said.

What is not clear yet is if healthy — albeit lazy — people using these drugs could garner benefits as well.