'Lazy people should take drugs to get fit,' says endurance expert

Professor of sport science says that the idea of using 'psycho-active' drugs shouldn't be immediately dismissed "on the basis of unrelated ethical considerations about doping in sport"

People who cannot stick to training plans to get fit should consider doping, says an endurance expert.

Professor Samuele Marcora, from the University of Kent, admits the idea is “controversial and drastic”, but points out that drugs are used to help people quit smoking or to treat obesity with no ethical problems.

Using “psycho-active drugs” to overcome the barriers to exercise and fitness could be the way forward, argues Prof Marcora, Director of Research at the University of Kent’s School of Sport and Exercise Science, because it’s the perception of effort that stops sedentary people taking regular exercise.

“Compared to watching television (zero effort), even moderate-intensity physical activities like walking require considerable effort,” says the prof. “Reducing the perception of effort during exercise using caffeine or other psychoactive drugs could help many people stick to their fitness plans,” he adds.

Watch: What are training zones?

The professor even goes as far as naming suitable drugs. Methylphenidate and modafinil could do the trick, he says.

Methylphenidate stimulates the central nervous system and is often used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Modafinil promotes alertness and wakefulness and is often used to treat excessive sleepiness seen in people with narcolepsy or sleep disorders associated with shift work.

Prof Marcora says that physical inactivity is a major threat to public health and he says that treatment of it using drugs should “be considered fairly and seriously rather than immediately rejected on the basis of unrelated ethical considerations about doping in sport.”

The University of Kent has an excellent reputation in sports science and has been frequently associated with respected academic papers.

Prof Marcora’s work, Can Doping be a Good Thing? Using Psychoactive Drugs to Facilitate Physical Activity Behaviour, which appears in the journal Sports Medicine, is likely to promote a vigorous debate.

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