Aerobic exercise, lipids and lipoproteins in overweight and obese adults

Evidence Summaries

Level of Evidence = B
Aerobic exercise appears to produce a small decrease in triglyceride levels in overweight and obese adults, but the observed positive effect on total cholesterol is less clear.

A systematic review 1 including 13 studies with a total of 613 subjects was abstracted in DARE. Studies of interventions containing prescribed aerobic exercise of at least 8 weeks' duration compared with a non-exercise group were eligible for inclusion. Resistance training was excluded, as were studies that combined exercise with a dietary intervention. Statistically significant improvements for total cholesterol (X +/- s.e.m., - 3.4+/-1.7 mg/dl, 95% CI - 6.7 to - 0.2 mg/dl) and triglycerides (- 16.1+/-7.3 mg/dl, 95% CI - 30.2 to - 2.1 mg/dl) but not HDL (1.6+/-0.8 mg/dl, 95% CI - 0.02 to 3.2 mg/dl) or LDL (- 0.5+/-1.3 mg/dl, 95% CI - 3.0 to 2.0 mg/dl) were found. Changes were equivalent to improvements of 2% (total cholesterol), 11% (triglycerides), 3% (HDL), and 0.3% (LDL). After conducting sensitivity analyses, only decreases in triglycerides remained statistically significant. In SI units the observed improvements were 0.09 mmol/l for total cholesterol, 0.18 mmol/l for triglycerides, 0.04 mmol/l for HDL, and 0.01 mmol/l for LDL cholesterol.

Comment: The quality of evidence is downgraded by study quality (more than 20% loss to follow up).


1. Kelley GA, Kelley KS, Vu Tran Z. Aerobic exercise, lipids and lipoproteins in overweight and obese adults: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Int J Obes (Lond) 2005 Aug;29(8):881-93.  [PMID:15824746]

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