A long-term study of over 8,700 middle-aged men and women has shown that women experience greater health benefits than men as a result of exercise.
The analysis of this large Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study was carried out by Keri Monda and colleagues at North Carolina University (NCU).
They found that over a 12-year period, all individuals who increased their exercise by about 180 metabolic units per week (equivalent to an additional hour of mild or 30 minutes of moderate activity per week) displayed decreased levels of triglycerides and increased levels of the "good" HDL cholesterol.
However, statistically significant decreases in the "bad" LDL cholesterol were only observed in women, with particularly strong effects in menopausal women and African-American women. And total cholesterol levels were only significantly decreased in African-American women, said an NCU release.
The authors speculate that these differences may arise from hormonal differences between the sexes, especially considering the extra effects seen post-menopause. The racial differences observed may stem from genetic variations that require further exploration.
These findings appear in the August issue of Journal of Lipid Research.