Effects of aerobic physical exercise on inflammation and atherosclerosis in men: the DNASCO Study: a six-year randomized, controlled trial

Ann Intern Med. 2004 Jun 15;140(12):1007-14. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-140-12-200406150-00010.


Background: Although regular physical activity is recommended for prevention of cardiovascular diseases, no data are available on its antiatherosclerotic effects in the general population.

Objective: To determine whether progressive aerobic exercise compared with usual activity slows progression of atherosclerosis in men.

Design: A 6-year randomized, controlled trial.

Setting: Eastern Finland.

Participants: 140 middle-aged men randomly selected from the population registry.

Intervention: Low- to moderate-intensity aerobic exercise.

Measurements: Atherosclerosis was quantitated ultrasonographically as the mean intima-media thickness in the carotid artery at baseline and at years 2 through 6.

Results: On the basis of intention-to-treat analyses, a 19.5% net increase (P < 0.001) in ventilatory aerobic threshold was evident in the exercise group after 6 years. High-sensitivity C-reactive protein levels were statistically nonsignificantly lower in the exercise group than in the control group (P > 0.2). The progression of intima-media thickness in the carotid artery did not differ between the study groups (P > 0.2). A subgroup analysis that excluded men taking statins showed that the 6-year progression of intima-media thickness, adjusted for smoking and annual measures of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level, systolic blood pressure, and waist circumference, was 40% less in the exercise group (0.12 mm [95% CI, -0.010 to 0.26 mm]) than in the control group (0.20 mm [CI, 0.05 to 0.35 mm]).

Limitations: Only middle-aged white men were included. The intervention included mainly aerobic exercises.

Conclusions: Aerobic physical exercise did not attenuate progression of atherosclerosis, except in a subgroup of men not taking statins.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arteriosclerosis / blood
  • Arteriosclerosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Arteriosclerosis / pathology*
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Carotid Arteries / diagnostic imaging
  • Carotid Arteries / pathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood
  • Inflammation / diagnostic imaging
  • Inflammation / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Tunica Intima / diagnostic imaging
  • Tunica Intima / pathology
  • Ultrasonography


  • C-Reactive Protein