Men Who Take Statins May Exercise Less
Activity declined most among those just starting the drug, study finds
However, men who newly embarked on a statin regimen during the study experienced a faster rate of activity decline than those who never took statins.
What's more, even after accounting for other factors such as a prior history of heart attack and/or stroke, the accelerometer readings revealed that both moderate and vigorous activity levels were measurably lower among statin users.
For example, statin patients engaged in five-plus fewer minutes of moderate activity, and 0.6 fewer minutes of vigorous activity, on a daily basis. At the same time, their sedentary habits rose by nearly eight minutes a day, according to the study.
"Now, we didn't look at the underlying cause or reason for decreased exercise," Lee acknowledged. "But the main hypothesis is that people who take a statin do experience an increase in muscle pain. It's actually the most common side effect. And observational studies have shown that as many as 20 percent of people taking statins will have muscle pain."
"At the same time, weakness and fatigue are also side effects," he noted. "And they could also be a part of the problem. It could be a combination of feeling a little bit of pain, feeling a little more tired, and feeling a little bit weaker. All of that together might be why patients are just not willing to do as much exercise. It could also perhaps be that other people who are on statins think they don't need to exercise anymore, as well. But to be honest, I don't think that's really the biggest factor. I think it's more to do with the side effects."
In an editorial accompanying Lee's study, Dr. Beatrice Alexandra Golomb, a professor of medicine at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine in La Jolla, said that the potential impact of statins on exercise patterns is something that "physicians and patients alike should bring into the discussion when assessing how these drugs may affect a patient's overall quality of life."
"Over the course of one day the drop in activity may seem small," she noted. "But over time it really adds up, particularly when most people are already shortchanging themselves in terms of the amount of exercise they need. We know that exercise has profound benefits for people in virtually every aspect of health, particularly in older age."
"So this is not to say that people who clearly merit statin therapy shouldn't take it," Golomb stressed. "For many, the benefits will surpass these sorts of considerations. But there are many people on the margins for whom this medication's impact on exercise is an issue worth discussing."