Purpose: There is strong and consistent evidence that a single exercise session can acutely reduce triglycerides and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (HDL-C), reduce blood pressure, and improve insulin sensitivity and glucose homeostasis. Such observations suggest that at least some of the effects on atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) risk factors attributed to exercise training may be the result of recent exercise.
Results: These acute and chronic exercise effects cannot be considered in isolation. Exercise training increases the capacity for exercise, thereby permitting more vigorous and/or more prolonged individual exercise sessions and a more significant acute effect. The intensity, duration, and energy expenditure required to produce these acute exercise effects are not clearly defined. The acute effect of exercise on triglycerides and HDL-C appears to increase with overall energy expenditure possibly because the effect maybe mediated by reductions in intramuscular triglycerides. Prolonged exercise appears necessary for an acute effect of exercise on low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (LDL-C) levels. The acute effect of exercise on blood pressure is a low threshold phenomenon and has been observed after energy expenditures requiring only 40% maximal capacity. The acute effect of exercise on glucose metabolism appears to require exercise near 70% maximal, but this issue has not been carefully examined.
Conclusions: Exercise has definite acute effects on blood lipids, blood pressure, and glucose homeostasis. Exercise also has acute effects on other factors related to atherosclerosis such as immunological function, vascular reactivity, and hemostasis. Considerable additional research is required to define the threshold of exercise required to produce these putatively beneficial effects.