Preventive Cardiology

Is Moderate Exercise Safe on Statins?

Statin users commonly experience muscle pain and weakness, and previous research has shown that they risk muscle damage by participating in strenuous exercise. But an interesting new study out of the Netherlands revealed that statins don’t exacerbate muscle-related harms from prolonged moderate-intensity exercise, and statin-associated muscle symptoms (SAMS) shouldn’t stand in the way of physical activity.

The researchers recruited 100 people in their 60s (35 statin users with SAMS, 34 statin users without SAMS, 31 healthy controls) to be evaluated while participating in Nijmegen, Netherlands’ 4Days March, which requires four daily walks of 18.6 to 31 miles. 

Surprisingly to some observers, each group had similar…

  • Increases in muscle injury biomarkers
  • Decreases in handgrip strength and muscle peak force
  • Levels of Leukocyte CoQ10… and CoQ10 levels weren’t associated with muscle injury markers, fatigue resistance, or muscle symptoms
  • Increases in muscle pain scores, although statin users with SAMS had higher baseline muscle pain scores

Statin users might still risk muscle injuries with strenuous exercise, but these findings suggest that “moderate” exercise (like four straight 31-mile walks) doesn’t damage statin users’ muscles, while reinforcing recommendations to combine statin therapy with a physically active lifestyle. 

The Takeaway

Statin-associated muscle symptoms earned its own medical abbreviation (SAMS) for a reason, and concerns about statin’s muscle risks are well established. That’s what makes the findings of this study so beneficial from a patient and clinician education standpoint, especially if it helps get more statin users exercising.

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