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In women who are overweight or obese, walking reduces total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, independent of diet and weight-loss interventions

Ballard AM, Davis A, Wong B, et al. The Effects of Exclusive Walking on Lipids and Lipoproteins in Women with Overweight and Obesity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Am J Health Promot. 2022;36:328-39.

Review question

In women who are overweight or obese, does walking improve lipid (cholesterol or triglyceride) levels independent of diet and weight-loss interventions?


People with abnormal lipid or lipoprotein levels have an increased risk for heart disease. Lipids and lipoproteins include total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and triglycerides.

People who are overweight or obese often have abnormal lipid or lipoprotein levels. Exercise may help improve these levels and reduce heart disease risk. This review looks at whether walking, without additional diet or weight-loss interventions, can improve lipid or lipoprotein levels in women who are overweight or obese.

How the review was done

The researchers did a systematic review of studies available up to 2021. They found 21 studies that included 1,129 women (average age, 22 to 73 years). Some studies were randomized controlled trials.

The key features of the studies were:

  • women were 18 years of age or older and were overweight (body mass index of 25.0 to 29.9 kg/m2) or obese (body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or greater);
  • walking interventions were done without additional diet or other physical activity interventions;
  • walking was compared with a control group that did not include other interventions, such as another physical activity or dietary counselling;
  • walking interventions were done for at least 4 weeks, and most were done for 12 to 24 weeks; and
  • most walking interventions were of moderate intensity and included supervised sessions.

Studies that included women taking lipid-lowering drugs (e.g., statins) were excluded.

What the researchers found

Compared with control, walking without additional diet or weight-loss interventions

  • reduced total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels; and
  • did not improve triglyceride or HDL cholesterol levels.


In women who are overweight or obese, walking reduces total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, independent of additional diet or weight-loss interventions.

Exclusive walking* vs. control† in women who are overweight or obese‡


Ideal value

Number of studies

Median value§ at beginning of trials

Effect of exclusive walking

Total cholesterol

<200 mg/dL


207 mg/dL

Reduced total cholesterol by an average of 6.7 mg/dL more than control


<150 mg/dL


116 mg/dL

No difference in effect

HDL cholesterol

>60 mg/dL


54 mg/dL

No difference in effect

LDL cholesterol

<100 mg/dL


126 mg/dL

Reduced LDL cholesterol by an average of 7.4 mg/dL more than control

LDL = low-density lipoprotein; HDL = high-density lipoprotein.

*Walking without additional diet or weight-loss interventions.

†Excluded other interventions such as dietary counselling or physical activity.

‡Overweight = body mass index of 25.0 to 29.9 kg/m2. Obesity = body mass index of 30.0 kg/m2 or greater.

§Median value = middle value. 50% of people have values at or lower than the median, and 50% have values at or higher than the median.


Control group
A group that receives either no treatment or a standard treatment.
The number separating the higher half from the lower half. 50% are above that point and 50% are below.
Randomized controlled trials
Studies where people are assigned to one of the treatments purely by chance.
Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

Related Web Resources

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