Helps the Heart
Exercise can improve fitness and reduce cholesterol in overweight
and obese people even when it does not result in weight loss, according
to results of a study.
The findings are good news for overweight people tempted to quit
their exercise program out of frustration that they are not losing
now have the data for physicians who can tell their patients that
they shouldn't focus so much on the scale," said researcher Dr.
William Kraus, a cardiologist at Duke University Medical Center
in Durham, North Carolina, in a statement.
patients should not become discouraged and give up exercising, because
our study shows that these patients are getting healthier even if
they don't lose any weight," he added.
The preliminary study, published in the February issue of the journal
Clinical Exercise Physiology, found that moderate cardiovascular
exercise lowered LDL cholesterol -- known as the "bad" cholesterol
because of its link to arterial disease -- and raised levels of
HDL, the "good" cholesterol.
Elevated cholesterol and excess weight are linked to heart risk.
Studies have shown that regular exercise can lower cholesterol and
reduce obesity among the general population.
In fact, if any of the seven mildly obese men and women in the study
started to lose weight on the prescribed exercise program, the researchers
altered their diet to maintain a constant weight.
The study showed that during the 3-month exercise program, the study
participants converted body fat to muscle. Muscle burns more calories
than fat; therefore, people with more muscle have higher metabolic
rates, a factor that may contribute to lower rates of heart disease,
the authors write.
The exercise program used in the study burned 2,000 calories a week
and included a 1-hour workout on a treadmill, stationary bicycle,
stair exerciser and other equipment, four times a week. The intensity
of the exercise increased as the 3-month study progressed.
All patients experienced an 11% increase in their exercise tolerance,
which is probably due to the conversion of body fat into muscle,
the investigators noted.
Furthermore, levels of artery clogging LDL cholesterol decreased
significantly while HDL cholesterol, which may help clear arteries,
The results of the study inspired the National Heart, Lung and Blood
Institute to provide a $4.3 million grant that will allow researchers
to conduct a much larger trial, which has been enrolling patients
for the past year.
individuals who are aerobically fit (a measure of the body's ability
to transport and use oxygen) appears to be one of the best determinants
for lowering the risk of heart disease. Bursts of exercise that get
the heart and lungs working at peak capacity may be of greater benefit
than frequent, moderate activity.
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