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Duke Study Links Exercise, Improved Cholesterol

Posted November 7, 2002

— Doctors believe that exercise lowers cholesterol, but a new study proves it for the first time. It also showed that the necessary exercise is not just all about weight loss.

Mike Hauser had a habit that was hard to break.

"Yeah, I was a couch potato," he said.

When Hauser was diagnosed with high cholesterol he decided to join a study at

Duke University Medical Center

.

The study looked at the effects of exercise on cholesterol. Some participants jogged or walked 12 miles per week.

Hauser's group jogged 20 miles every week and fared the best.

"Compared with individuals who did not exercise, some was better than none, but more exercise was better in improving blood cholesterol levels," said Dr. Bill Kraus, a Duke cardiologist.

The study, published in the Nov. 6 edition of the

New England Journal of Medicine

, is the first to link exercise with improved cholesterol levels.

Researchers also measured the particles that carry cholesterol through the bloodstream.

Experts believe it is a better measurement tool than overall cholesterol numbers. The results showed that big particles are best and exercise helped make them bigger.

"More amounts of exercise improved and increased the size of the bad cholesterol particles," said Kraus.

Participants were not permitted to lose weight during the study. Doctors said having a healthy heart is not all about shedding pounds.

Hauser said he shed his couch-potato lifestyle for a more active, healthy one.

"It's been a life-changing sort of thing. I help coach my son's soccer team now and I can keep up with all the kids. It just makes a world of difference," he said.

The study also found it does not matter how hard you work out. What is important is how much.

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