A consistent Pilates practice may help people who are interested in improving their levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, according to a study published in the Journal of Exercise, Nutrition & Biochemistry (2014; 18 , 267–75).
Guidelines for reducing heart disease risks, supported by the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, include a recommendation of 40 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise, three to four times a week, to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Researchers from Dongduk Women’s University, department of physical education, in Seoul, South Korea, undertook a study to determine whether Pilates exercise was sufficiently vigorous to improve blood lipid levels—triglycerides, “bad” LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. The investigators also evaluated the impact of Pilates exercise on muscular damage by measuring inflammatory markers.
The research team recruited 22 healthy female college students aged 19–24 with no prior Pilates experience. They were divided into a Pilates practice group and a control group. Pilates participants did a 70- to 80-minute exercise program, 3 days a week, for 8 weeks. Exercises involved mat work using resistance bands and foam rollers. Control group members made no life changes. Before and after the 8-week intervention period, investigators assessed all subjects for a variety of physical markers and measured blood lipids.
Data analysis showed that Pilates participants experienced significant increases in HDL cholesterol levels when compared with the control group. No positive impact, however, was found on total cholesterol, triglycerides or LDL cholesterol levels. Researchers noted that no effort was made to supervise the nutrition of study participants and that body fat increased in all of them during the 8-week intervention, possibly owing to the typically poor dietary habits of young, college-aged women. More research was recommended.