Statin found to largely negate the fitness benefits of exercise

A major motivator for many to take exercise is the desire to ‘get fit and healthy’. Regular exercise induces changes that can increase things like strength and endurance. One particular adaptation to exercise concerns increased numbers of tiny structures called mitochondria (my-toe-con-dree-ah) in the cells. Most of our energy needs are met by the metabolism of fuels such as sugar and fat in the mitochondria. Basically, the more mitochondria we have, the more energised we are.

However, according to recently-published research, the benefits one would expect from regular exercise may be negated in those taking statin drugs.

In this research, 37 adults underwent 12 weeks of aerobic training. All participants, prior to the study, were sedentary and overweight or obese [1]. Fitness was assessed prior to the study starting, and at the end too.

Half of the group just participated in the exercise programme, while the other half took 40 mg of the statin simvastatin (Zocor) each day.

In those not taking statins, fitness increased by an average of 10 per cent of the 12-week study. However, in those taking simvastatin, fitness increased by only 1.5 per cent on average.

Mitochondrial activity was assessed by measuring activity of the enzyme citrate synthase (a key enzyme involved in energy production in the mitochondria). Citrate synthase activity increased by 13 per cent in those who adopted exercise, but actually fell by 4.5 per cent in those taking the drug.

It is possible, that these effects of statins have something to do with the fact that statins can deplete the body of the nutrient coenzyme Q10 which is essential for energy production in the mitochondria. I wrote about impact of statins on coenzyme Q10 levels recently here.

What seems clear from the research, is that statins have the ability to block some of the benefits exercise can bring. It’s yet another thing to add to the ever-lengthening list of potential unwanted effects of statins.


1. Mikus CR, et al. Simvastatin impairs exercise training adaptations. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Epub 10 April 2013

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5 Responses to Statin found to largely negate the fitness benefits of exercise

  1. Shreya 14 June 2013 at 7:35 am #

    Hi John, nice blog shared above. Thanks for sharing information about Statin. Really great job.

  2. Stephen Rhodes 14 June 2013 at 5:01 pm #

    Another nail in the coffin of this dangerous family of drugs one would hope.

    But like the falsified ideas in some areas of science, statins are also ‘zombies’.

    But at least the undertaker won’t have a problem bending you prematurely into your coffin.

  3. Dr David Unwin 15 June 2013 at 6:09 pm #

    Mmm these mitochondria are turning out to be rather interesting. As i understand it its these little fellows whose activity is enhanced by the low carb diet and also the diabetic treatment metformin so i wonder if statins diminishing their activity could be the mechanism that statins increase the incidence of diabetes ?? See last weeks British Medical journal

  4. Metalpetal 24 July 2013 at 10:39 am #

    I’m a 42 year old female who has FH (Familial hypercholesterolaemia) and have been on statins for a year now. My levels have come down but I do worry when I read articles such as this that seem to link statins to all sorts of nasty side effects.

    Do you have any advice about anything I can do to manage my FH without statins? Or in my case are the risks worth it?

  5. Stephen Rhodes 24 July 2013 at 7:14 pm #


    You might try following Dr Malcolm Kendrick too. on FH

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