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In women who are overweight or obese, walking reduces total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, independent of diet and weight-loss interventions

Ballard AM, Davis A, Wong B, et al. The Effects of Exclusive Walking on Lipids and Lipoproteins in Women with Overweight and Obesity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Am J Health Promot. 2022;36:328-39.

Review question

In women who are overweight or obese, does walking improve lipid (cholesterol or triglyceride) levels independent of diet and weight-loss interventions?

Background

People with abnormal lipid or lipoprotein levels have an increased risk for heart disease. Lipids and lipoproteins include total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and triglycerides.

People who are overweight or obese often have abnormal lipid or lipoprotein levels. Exercise may help improve these levels and reduce heart disease risk. This review looks at whether walking, without additional diet or weight-loss interventions, can improve lipid or lipoprotein levels in women who are overweight or obese.

How the review was done

The researchers did a systematic review of studies available up to 2021. They found 21 studies that included 1,129 women (average age, 22 to 73 years). Some studies were randomized controlled trials.

The key features of the studies were:

  • women were 18 years of age or older and were overweight (body mass index of 25.0 to 29.9 kg/m2) or obese (body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or greater);
  • walking interventions were done without additional diet or other physical activity interventions;
  • walking was compared with a control group that did not include other interventions, such as another physical activity or dietary counselling;
  • walking interventions were done for at least 4 weeks, and most were done for 12 to 24 weeks; and
  • most walking interventions were of moderate intensity and included supervised sessions.

Studies that included women taking lipid-lowering drugs (e.g., statins) were excluded.

What the researchers found

Compared with control, walking without additional diet or weight-loss interventions

  • reduced total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels; and
  • did not improve triglyceride or HDL cholesterol levels.

Conclusion

In women who are overweight or obese, walking reduces total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, independent of additional diet or weight-loss interventions.

Exclusive walking* vs. control† in women who are overweight or obese‡

Outcomes

Ideal value

Number of studies

Median value§ at beginning of trials

Effect of exclusive walking

Total cholesterol

<200 mg/dL

20

207 mg/dL

Reduced total cholesterol by an average of 6.7 mg/dL more than control

Triglycerides

<150 mg/dL

17

116 mg/dL

No difference in effect

HDL cholesterol

>60 mg/dL

18

54 mg/dL

No difference in effect

LDL cholesterol

<100 mg/dL

15

126 mg/dL

Reduced LDL cholesterol by an average of 7.4 mg/dL more than control

LDL = low-density lipoprotein; HDL = high-density lipoprotein.

*Walking without additional diet or weight-loss interventions.

†Excluded other interventions such as dietary counselling or physical activity.

‡Overweight = body mass index of 25.0 to 29.9 kg/m2. Obesity = body mass index of 30.0 kg/m2 or greater.

§Median value = middle value. 50% of people have values at or lower than the median, and 50% have values at or higher than the median.



Related Topics


Glossary

Control group
A group that receives either no treatment or a standard treatment.
Median
The number separating the higher half from the lower half. 50% are above that point and 50% are below.
Randomized controlled trials
Studies where people are assigned to one of the treatments purely by chance.
Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

Related Web Resources

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    Being physically active can help in the management and prevention of Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD). Supervised, facility-based specialized exercise programs may potentially help relieve leg pain and improve walking ability in people with PAD. Unsupervised, structured home-based exercise programs are also an option. Consult with your health care provider prior to initiating any type of exercise program.
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    Walking can help boost your level of physical activity. Tracking your daily step count using a pedometer or step counter allows you to identify your activity level so you can then set goals to be more active.
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    Pelvic floor muscles work to support the organs in the pelvis, such as the bladder and rectum. When these muscles are weakened—naturally through age, an injury, or some other contributing factor—it can result in urinary and fecal incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. Pelvic floor exercises (i.e. Kegel exercises) can help to enhance the strength of these muscles and improve symptoms.
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