Athletes are known to have higher concentrations of high density lipoprotein - the 'good' form of protective blood fat - than sedentary people. But little has been known about the effects of exercise on the total blood fat of ordinary people who eat fatty meals.
The research, led by Dr Adrianne Hardman at the University of Loughborough's department of sports science, has been funded by the British Heart Foundation, which as a result of the findings is running a series of sponsored walks next month to encourage people to exercise.
Six men and six women, with an average age of 26, each took part in two two-day experiments. On the first afternoon they walked two miles at about four miles per hour, strenuously enough to increase their heart rate. Then they ate a supper of their choice. On day two they ate a fatty breakfast of cereal, fruit, nuts, chocolate and cream.
In the second experiment they ate the breakfast but rested the day before.
Dr Hardman said that when the researchers measured the blood fat after the meals they found that the increase was a third less in the volunteers when they had exercised compared with when they had rested.
She said it was an intriguing finding that shed new light on the effects of exercise on the arterial system. Cholesterol is implicated in blocking arteries.
'About one in ten adults do not take enough exercise to benefit their health. Now we want to find out how little exercise is needed to have a beneficial effect. We are also looking at what exactly goes on and why.'