Exercise: Getting to the Heart of the Matter

The New York Times ran a story today about the potential negative effects of exercise on a small part of the population.
In analyzing the data from six different rigorous exercise studies involving 1,687 people, about 10% got worse in at least 1 or more measures related to heart disease. These included insulin levels, blood pressure, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

About 7% of those tested showed a decline in 2 or more factors.

The results were not related to age, race or gender. They also were not affected by how fit the people were at the start of the program, or how much their fitness levels improved. There appears to be no correlation between the decline in health measurements and any other factor.

There is great concern that this gives inactive people an excuse not get moving.

While the article is interesting, yet inconclusive, the 300 comments are more fascinating.

Many are questioning the other factors not followed in the study: diet, sodium intake and what type of exercise was done. There is no reference to these individual’s genetics. There is also concern that the subjects were not followed long enough to know what, if any effect this had on mortality rates.

Most agree on one thing: the benefits seem to out weigh the risks. There are many more pieces of research supporting the positive outcome of exercise, than this small study. Perhaps fitness is another place where “one size” does not fit all.

Stay tuned for more on this controversial topic.

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3 Responses to “Exercise: Getting to the Heart of the Matter”

  1. Greg Johnston Says:

    This is a perfect example in medicine of “disease-oriented” evidence, versus “patient-oriented”. Yes, the study found in some people some negative effects on markers for heart disease, but from a patient perspective, you don’t feel if your cholesterol is a few points lower, you only know if you have a heart attack or die suddenly.

    At best, this study should be looked at as developing some interesting theories to study something important to patients – i.e. does exercising make you have a heart attack or die more frequently than not exercising. This study doesn’t address that question at all.

  2. amanda Says:

    Interesting. I skimmed the NYTimes article but did not read it carefully. I wonder if they truly controlled for diet? It said that researchers made sure that participants didn’t change their diets, but unless they’re being fed in a controlled environment I think there’s great leeway for half-truths among participants. People who increase their calorie burn sometimes increase the calories they’re taking in, often without knowing it. And sometimes they end up craving a lot more carbs and sugar as a result of the increased exercise. And as we know from other recent studies, carbs and sugar (which increase blood sugar and cause insulin resistance) can cause heart disease factors.

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