Several studies, including the present, demonstrate that exercise raises HDL cholesterol levels. Some researchers suggest that the way to avoid a decline in HDL cholesterol levels that occurs with dieting is to combine diet with exercise.
It has been shown that those who decrease their fat intake while dieting, but maintain an active exercise program, note an increase in HDL cholesterol levels.
(Arteriosclerosis 1988, 8:737-741, Arch Intern Med 1995, 155:415-420).
Using the above example, one can easily realize the benefits of reducing cholesterol through dieting while HDL cholesterol levels are maintained. The result is that those who exercise regularly have a more favourable lipid profile (cholesterol, triglyceride etc) than those who do not exercise.
This may also lead to a reduction in the risk for developing atherosclerosis.
It is widely accepted that exercise affects cholesterol and other lipids (fats) in a positive way, by regulating the metabolism of all lipids (fats) in the blood.
Another major impact of exercise on lipids (fats) is that it lowers triglyceride levels.
How much exercise is required to raise HDL cholesterol levels and improve the overall lipid (fats) profile?
Our study (The ATTICA study) demonstrated that even medium exercise is adequate to raise HDL cholesterol levels in women.
The ATTICA study is a health and nutrition survey, which is being carried out in the province of Attica (during 2001â€“2002), where Athens is a major metropolis.
Women at medium and high physical activity levels had 6% and 9% higher HDL cholesterol levels, respectively, as compared to those with a sedentary lifestyle.
It is notable that the previous associations were independent of the effects of body mass index, smoking habits and age of the participants.
The Pawtucket Heart Study reported that physical activity was significantly associated with lower blood pressure as well as body mass index and higher HDL cholesterol levels. (Med Sci Sports Exerc 1955, 27:340-346).
Among 3000 adult Japanese men frequency of physical activity was independently and positively related to HDL cholesterol levels. (Circulation 1998, 97:661-665).
Also, a pooled analysis among three European groups of people consisting of a total of 402 elderly men demonstrated a significant relation of physical activity with HDL cholesterol. (Am J Epidemiol 1996, 143:553-561).
The same findings were observed in several studies that included only women. (N Engl J Med 1996, 334:1298-303, Am J Epidemiol 1997, 146:322-328, N Engl J Med 1998, 339:12-20).
Low levels of HDL cholesterol and high levels of LDL cholesterol have been identified as coronary risk factors (coronary thrombosis or heart attack).
Skoumas J, Pitsavos C et al. Physical activity, high density lipoprotein cholesterol and other lipids levels, in men and women from the ATTICA study. Â© 2003 Skoumas et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0).
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