Statins could reduce physical activity in older men, which is especially dangerous in this demographic.
The cholesterol-lowering drugs are prescribed to about one-third of older Americans, an Oregon State University news release reported.
"Physical activity in older adults helps to maintain a proper weight, prevent cardiovascular disease and helps to maintain physical strength and function," David Lee, an assistant professor in the Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy, and lead author of the study, said in the news release.
The research did not determine why these men participate in less physical activity, but possible explanations include muscle pain (which can be a side effect of the drugs) or a disruption of mitochondrial function in cells that leads to fatigue.
Muscle pain is seen in between five and 30 percent of people who take statins. Some also report feeling " less energetic, weak or tired," the news release reported.
"We're trying to find ways to get older adults to exercise more, not less," Lee said. "It's a fairly serious concern if use of statins is doing something that makes people less likely to exercise."
To make their findings the researchers looked at 3,071 community-living men 65 years of age or older; they found men who took statins participated in about 40 minutes less activity per week than those not taking the drugs.
"For an older population that's already pretty sedentary, that's a significant amount less exercise," Lee said. "Even moderate amounts of exercise can make a big difference."
The team also found that new statin users had the largest drop in physical activity.
"Given these results, we should be aware of a possible decrease in physical activity among people taking a statin," Lee said.
"This could decrease the benefit of the medication," he said. "If someone is already weak, frail, or sedentary, they may want to consider this issue, and consult with their doctor to determine if statin use is still appropriate."