Study: exercise, even without weight loss, is good for the heart

DURHAM, N.C. -- A preliminary study by Duke University Medical Center researchers indicates that moderate exercise alone can improve cholesterol levels and reduce the percentage of body fat in moderately obese people, even if the exercise program does not lead to weight loss.

The results of the recently completed pilot study are the first to demonstrate that exercise alone -- independent of weight loss or diet changes -- can cut the risks of heart disease, the researchers said. They said this should provide encouragement to millions of overweight Americans, many of whom quit exercise programs because they failed to lose weight.

The results of the three-month study by Duke cardiologist Dr. William Kraus were published Tuesday (Feb.15) in the February issue of the journal Clinical Exercise Physiology.

The study findings, which involved seven mildly obese men and women, provided the scientific basis for a recent $4.3 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute which will allow researchers to carry out a much larger trial. That trial, called Studies of Targeted Risk Reduction Interventions through Defined Exercise (STRRIDE), has been enrolling patients for the past year.

"This pilot study was a first attempt to isolate the effects of exercise from weight loss in a controlled fashion," Kraus said. "We designed the trial such that we can attribute all the beneficial effects to exercise alone." Kraus is confident that the ongoing STRRIDE study will confirm the results of the pilot study. Kraus added that since the changes documented by the study were consistent across all patients, the small number of patients involved does not limit researchers' ability to draw conclusions.

"We now have the data for physicians who can tell their patients that they shouldn't focus so much on the scale," said Kraus, who led the study. "These patients should not become discouraged and give up exercising, because our study shows that these patients a

Contact: Richard Merritt
Duke University Medical Center

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