The effects of an exercise training program on serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels in women using oral contraceptives

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The purpose of this study was to determine if a training program consisting of 30 minutes of running on a treadmill, 3 days per week for 6 weeks, would lower serum cholesterol and/or triglyceride concentration in women using oral contraceptives. The intensity of the training was maintained at approximately 75% of the subject's pre-training maximal oxygen uptake. Comparisons were made in the variables triglyceride, cholesterol, maximum ventilation and maximum oxygen uptake, prior to and following training, between subjects who used birth control pills and those who did not.

Eighteen women volunteers between the ages of 25-39 years, participated in the training program. Nine women were using oral contraceptives of the combined type. The subjects were free of metabolic diseases and were judged to be sedentary.

Fasting blood samples were taken prior to and following the training program for lipid analyses. Maximum oxygen uptake and ventilation were determined by pre-training and post-training stress tests. To isolate training as the factor responsible for any changes in serum lipid concentration, the factors of body weight, skinfold thickness, fasting times and dietary patterns were held constant across the training period.

Using multivariate analysis of covariance, one-way classification, to compare the group using oral contraceptives with the group not using them, no significant differences (p < 0.05) were found between the groups for either the blood lipids or the measures of functional capacity.

Hotelling’s T² for comparison of pre-test to post~test differences within groups was employed using the linear combinations of the means of maximum ventilation and maximum oxygen uptake. The same analysis was used for the linear combination of the means of triglyceride and cholesterol. Only the group not using oral contraceptives showed significant difference (p < 0.05) in any of the variables. This difference was an increase after training, in maximum ventilation and maximum oxygen uptake.

Other changes as a result of training were noted, although differences were not statistically significant at the 0.05 level of probability. These changes were 1) an improvement in the physical working capacity of the group using oral contraceptives, 2) a decrease in serum triglyceride and/or cholesterol levels in subjects whose initial values were in the upper ranges of clinical normality for these lipids. Exercise did not appear to affect the lipid levels of subjects who initially had low or average values.