Much attention has been directed toward lifestyle modifications as effective means of reducing cardiovascular disease risk. In particular, physical activity has been heavily studied because of its well-known effects on metabolic syndrome, insulin sensitivity, cardiovascular disease risk, and all-cause mortality. However, data regarding the effects of exercise on various stages of the atherosclerosis pathway remain conflicting. The investigators review previously published reports for recent observational and interventional trials investigating the effects of physical activity on markers of (or causal factors for) atherosclerotic burden and vascular disease, including serum lipoproteins, systemic inflammation, thrombosis, coronary artery calcium, and carotid intima-media thickness. In conclusion, the data show a correlation between physical activity and triglyceride reduction, apolipoprotein B reduction, high-density lipoprotein increase, change in low-density lipoprotein particle size, increase in tissue plasminogen activator activity, and decrease in coronary artery calcium. Further research is needed to elucidate the effect of physical activity on inflammatory markers and intima-media thickness.
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