Statin found to largely negate the fitness benefits of exercise

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A major motivator for many to take exercise is the desire to ‘get fit and healthy’. Regular exercise induces changes that can increase things like strength and endurance. One particular adaptation to exercise concerns increased numbers of tiny structures called mitochondria (my-toe-con-dree-ah) in the cells. Most of our energy needs are met by the metabolism of fuels such as sugar and fat in the mitochondria. Basically, the more mitochondria we have, the more energised we are.

However, according to recently-published research, the benefits one would expect from regular exercise may be negated in those taking statin drugs.

In this research, 37 adults underwent 12 weeks of aerobic training. All participants, prior to the study, were sedentary and overweight or obese [1]. Fitness was assessed prior to the study starting, and at the end too.

Half of the group just participated in the exercise programme, while the other half took 40 mg of the statin simvastatin (Zocor) each day.

In those not taking statins, fitness increased by an average of 10 per cent of the 12-week study. However, in those taking simvastatin, fitness increased by only 1.5 per cent on average.

Mitochondrial activity was assessed by measuring activity of the enzyme citrate synthase (a key enzyme involved in energy production in the mitochondria). Citrate synthase activity increased by 13 per cent in those who adopted exercise, but actually fell by 4.5 per cent in those taking the drug.

It is possible, that these effects of statins have something to do with the fact that statins can deplete the body of the nutrient coenzyme Q10 which is essential for energy production in the mitochondria. I wrote about impact of statins on coenzyme Q10 levels recently here.

What seems clear from the research, is that statins have the ability to block some of the benefits exercise can bring. It’s yet another thing to add to the ever-lengthening list of potential unwanted effects of statins.


1. Mikus CR, et al. Simvastatin impairs exercise training adaptations. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Epub 10 April 2013 [hr]

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