Associations of aerobic and strength exercise with clinical laboratory test values

PLoS One. 2017 Oct 23;12(10):e0180840. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0180840. eCollection 2017.


Objectives: Physical exercise may affect levels of blood-based biomarkers. However, exercise status is seldom considered in the interpretation of laboratory results. This study reports the associations between habitual exercise participation and clinical laboratory test results.

Methods: The effects of days per week of aerobic and strength exercise participation on laboratory test results for 26 biomarkers in young adults aged 18 to 34 years (n = 80,111) were evaluated using percentile distribution analyses and multivariate regression.

Results: In both men and women, more days per week of either aerobic or strength exercise were significantly associated with lower levels of glucose, hemoglobin A1c, LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, triglycerides, estimated glomerular filtration rate, globulin, and C-reactive protein, and significantly higher levels of HDL cholesterol, creatinine, iron, and percent saturation (all p < .05). Type of exercise or gender influenced the observed relationships with exercise frequency for total cholesterol, aspartate aminotransferase, gamma-glutamyl transferase, alkaline phosphatase, uric acid, bilirubin, and iron binding capacity.

Conclusions: Physical exercise shifted the distribution of results into the direction suggestive of better health. Reported relationships may help clinicians and patients to better understand and interpret laboratory results in athletic populations and possibly re-evaluate interpretation of reference intervals for physically active populations.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aerobiosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Resistance Training*
  • Young Adult

Grant support

Quest Diagnostics provided support in the form of salaries for MSF, CB, MC, HWK, and MHK, but did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.