Study Shows Statins Reduce Exercise in Older Men


If you’re looking to lower your blood pressure, drop some weight and maintain good heart health, exercise is the ideal choice.  Unfortunately, some medications make it more difficult to get moving.  Such is the case with one of the most widely prescribed medications in the world, statins.  Nearly 30% of older Americans take statins, usually to reduce their cholesterol levels.  A study recently published in the June 9 issue of the Journal of American Medicine raises concerns about a decline in much-needed physical activity among older men who take statins.

The research did not identify why men who took statins exercised less – it just confirmed that they did. Possible causes include muscle pain that can be a side effect of statin use, and also disruption of the mitochondrial function in cells, which could contribute to fatigue and muscle weakness.


While there have been other studies that have found a correlation between statin use and exercise decline, this study was the largest of its kind. David Lee, an assistant professor in the Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy was the lead author of the study.  He and his colleagues analyzed data on 3,071 men aged 65 and over who enrolled in the Osteoporotic Fractures in Men Study between 2000 and 2002. The study participants were followed for 7 years.

They found that men who took statins had slightly less moderate physical activity over a one-week period, compared to those who weren’t taking the medication. In parts of the experiments, men wore movement-tracking devices (accelerometers) for a week. Statin users averaged about 40 minutes less physical activity per week.

“For an older population that’s already pretty sedentary, that’s a significant amount,” said Professor Lee, “Even moderate amounts of exercise can make a big difference.”

Note that the study involved only older men and findings should not be generalized to apply to older women.


Exercise is very important for everyone including older adults to maintain health, function, and independence. Knowing the effects of statins and exercise helps patients and physicians better plan for a possible drop in activity.  Also note that if you’ve just been prescribed a statin researchers found that new statin patients experience the fastest rate of exercise decline. It’s way a to prepare and ask if statins are you best choice.  They could very well be.

Of course you should always consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine.  A personal trainer specializing in heart-health is a good way to get moving and stay on track.

“I suggest starting with an sport that you like, starting slow and build little by little,” recommends professor Lee, “It may take a little longer while on a statin, but it will be worth it.”

Here are some guidelines for heart patients from the National Institutes of Health.

  • Start slowly. Choose an aerobic activity such as walking, swimming, light jogging, or biking. Do this at least 3 – 4 times a week.
  • Take rest periods before you get too tired. If you feel tired or have any heart symptoms, stop.
  • During hot weather, exercise in the morning or evening. Be careful not to wear too many layers of clothes. You can also go to an indoor shopping mall to walk.
  • When it is cold, cover your nose and mouth when exercising outside. That shopping mall is also a good choice if it is too cold or snowy to exercise outside.

Resistance weight training may improve your strength and help your muscles work together better. This can make it easier to do daily activities. But keep in mind they do not help your heart like aerobic exercise does.