Introduction: Previous studies have shown that lipoprotein particle size and lipoprotein subclasses are associated with cardiovascular and type 2 diabetes risk, and have independent prognostic value above traditional lipid concentrations. The impact of exercise training and increasing non-exercise physical activity on lipoprotein subclasses and size has not been previously investigated.
Methods: In this pilot study, 35 obese adults were randomized to aerobic exercise training (50-75% of VO2 max) (AERO, n=11), aerobic training and increasing non-exercise physical activity (AERO-PA, n=10, ~3,000 steps above baseline levels), or a non-exercise control group (n=14) for 6 months. Baseline and follow-up blood samples were analyzed for lipoprotein subclass, size, and lipoprotein insulin resistance score (LP-IR) using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (Liposcience, NC). Analysis of covariance was used to evaluate the change in outcome variables following the intervention across groups with adjustment for baseline value and age. Participants who changed lipid medications during the intervention (n=2) or who were non-adherent to exercise training (n=2) were excluded from the analysis.
Results: Significant reductions were observed for mean VLDL size in the AERO-PA group (-4.7 nm, CI: -8.7 to -0.8) compared to control group (0.7 nm, CI: -2.7 to 4.4) and the AERO group (1.1 nm, CI: -2.9 to 5.0). Reductions in triglyceride concentrations were observed in the AERO-PA group (-28.3 mg/dL, CI: -50.3 to -6.4) compared to control (4.1 mg/dL, CI: -14.6 to 22.8). Additionally, we observed a trend for LP-IR index (p=0.055) and the concentration of small HDL particles (p=0.093) to decrease in the AERO-PA group compared to controls, with no differences compared to the AERO group (p>0.10). No significant changes were observed for other notable lipoprotein measures, such as LDL size, HDL size, concentration of small LDL particles, or chylomicron measures (p>0.05). In the AERO-PA group, the change in steps was associated with the change in LP-IR index (r= -0.71, p=0.013), but not with change in VLDL size (r= -0.24, p=0.463) or triglyceride concentrations (r=-0.28, p=0.388).
Conclusions: Aerobic training combined with increasing non-exercise physical activity leads to favorable changes in the lipoprotein profile, specifically reductions in VLDL size and triglycerides, and may have promise for other lipoprotein traits (reductions in LP-IR and small HDL particles) that were not observed with aerobic training alone.