Major cardiovascular disorders are being recognized earlier in life. In this study we examined the effects of swimming and soccer training on male adolescent lipid-lipoprotein profiles relative to a maturity matched control group to determine the effects of these exercises on specific cardiovascular risk and anti-risk factors.
Forty five adolescent males (11.81 +/- 1.38 yr) including swimmers (SW), soccer players (SO), and non-athlete, physically active individuals as controls (C), participated in this study. Training groups completed 12-wk exercise programs on three non-consecutive days per week. Plasma low-density lipoprotein (LDL), very low density lipoprotein (VLDL), high density lipoprotein (HDL), apolipoprotein A-I (apoA-I), apolipoprotein B (apoB), total cholesterol (TC), and triglyceride (TG) levels were measured in control, pre-training, during-training, and post-training, respectively.
In response to the 12-wk training period, the SO group demonstrated a decrease in the mean LDL level compared to the SW and C (SW: 0.15%; SO: -9.51%; C: 19.59%; p < 0.001) groups. There was an increase in both the SW and SO groups vs. the control in mean HDL (SW: 5.66%; SO: 3.07%; C: -7.21%; p < 0.05) and apoA-I (SW: 3.86%; SO: 5.48%; C: -1.01%; p < 0.05). ApoB was considerably lower in the training groups vs. control (SW: -9.52%; SO: -13.87%; C: 21.09%; p < 0.05). ApoA-I/apoB ratio was significantly higher in training groups vs. control (SW: 16.74%; SO: 23.71%; C: -17.35%; p < 0.001). There were no significant differences between groups for other factors.
The favorable alterations in LDL, HDL, apoA-I, and apoB observed in the training groups suggest that both regular swimming or soccer exercise can potentially mitigate cardiovascular risk in adolescent males.
Alex’s Notes: The sad truth is that cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one killer in the world, and the even sadder reality is that more and more of the risk factors for CVD are developing in children. One of the most reliable risk factors is an abnormal lipid profile characterized by elevated triglycerides, LDL-C, and total cholesterol/HDL-C ratio. The current study’s purpose was simple: to compare the effect of two common sport-based training programs on CVD risk in children.
The study included 45 healthy 12-year old boys that were physically active for at least three months prior to starting the study. They were then divided into one of three groups: swimming, soccer, or control. The training programs lasted 12 weeks and had the boys participate in their group’s sport for an hour three times per week. The control group was physically active, but didn’t participate in a sport.
LDL-C was reduced in the soccer players by about 10%, but not in the swimmers, and it increased in the control group by nearly 20%. Moreover, all three groups experienced an increase in apoA-I levels from baseline, and both sports groups experienced a simultaneous reduction in apoB levels. Total cholesterol, triglycerides, VLDL-C, and average total cholesterol/HDL-C ratio was unaffected in any group.
These findings are consistent with other studies demonstrating the benefit of exercise in youth for the prevention of CVD, the difference being that the current used something the children may enjoy: social competition in sports. Now I fully admit that these results are kind of boring and unimpressive. It should be noted, however, that diet was uncontrolled for and some children probably influenced the results with additional exercise outside of the required sport activity. Also, it may be that an hour of exercise three times per week isn’t enough to produce a significant benefit. But none of this is the point.
The simple reason I wanted to look at this study and share it with you was because one thing is undoubtedly clear. Three months of a popular form of activity (soccer and swimming) does have some positive effects on blood lipids. I would also bet that the children enjoyed playing sports with their friends and developed a good sense of comradely and competition, both of which are crucial to proper character development. Finally, although there wasn’t a statistical significance, there was a trend for reduced body-fat mass and increased body weight in the exercising groups, suggesting a gain of muscle, our known metabolic currency.